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Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Site number:
Type of site: Cultural
Date: -
Date of Inscription: 1995
Location: Asia, Japan, Gifu and Toyama prefectures
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Description: Found in a mountainous region that was isolated from the rest of the world for an extensive period of time, these villages with their Gassho-style houses managed to survive on the cultivation of mulberry trees and silkworm rearing. The huge houses boasting steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only such examples in Japan. The villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma are exceptional examples of a traditional way of life, despite having encountered economic upheavals; they are perfectly tailored to the surroundings and people's social and economic circumstances. --WHMNet paraphrase from the description at WHC Site, where additional information is available.
  The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are one of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site is located in the Shogawa river valley stretching across the border of Gifu and Toyama prefecture in the Tokai-Hokuriku region of Honshuu, Japan. Shirakawa-gō (白川郷, "White River Old-District") is located in the village of Shirakawa-mura in Gifu prefecture. The Gokayama (五箇山, "Five Mountains") area is divided between the villages of Kamitaira-mura and Taira-mura in the greater Nanto city area of Toyama prefecture. These villages are well known for their houses constructed in architectural style known as gasshō-zukuri(合掌造り). The Gassho-zukuri, "prayer-hands construction" style is characterized by a thatched and steeply slanting roof resembling two hands joined in prayer. The design is exceptionally strong and, in combination with the unique properties of the thatching, allows the houses to withstand and shed the weight of the region's heavy snowfalls in winter. The houses are large, with three to four stories encompassed between the low eaves, and intended, historically, to house large extended families and an highly-efficient space for a variety of industries. The densely-forested mountains of the region still occupy 96% of all land in the area, and prior to the introduction of heavy earth-moving machinery, the narrow bands of flat lands running the length of the river valley limited the area available for agriculture and homestead development. The upper stories of the gassho houses were usually set aside for sericulture, while the areas below the first floor were often used for the production of nitre, one of the raw materials needed for the production of gunpowder. --Wikipedia. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Reference: 1. UNESCO World Heritage Center, Site Page.
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