The two villages trace their roots to the 8th century AD when the area where they are found was opened up for ascetic religious mountain worship that was centered on Mount Hakusan.

The Charming Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Japan

The villages of Gokoyama and Shirakawa-go are outstanding both in terms of history of human settlement as well as ability to adapt to their environment. Their social economic scene changed with changes in the larger Japanese economy.

The two villages trace their roots to the 8th century AD when the area where they are found was opened up for ascetic religious mountain worship that was centered on Mount Hakusan. This form of religion combined pre-Buddhist religious activities as well as esoteric Buddhism.

The village of Shirakawa was the ancestral land the Takayama clan. From the late 17th century to the Meiji restoration of 1868 the area was under Edo Bakufu. In the same period, Gokoyama village was under the Kanazawa Clan

Due to the mountainous terrain on which the 2 villages are set, rice production was not successful and thus farmers here practiced alternative grain production such as buckwheat and millet. Among the products that this region exported to other regions include silkworms and raw silk thread

Attractions in the Area

The area has a total of 117 houses and 7 other structures. Six of the houses are done in gassho style and were built in the 19th century. They are all aligned along the Sho River giving out a spectacular 19th century landscape. Below is a list of the most impressive attractions:

  • Buddhist temples, Myozen-ji and Honkaku-ji
  • The Shinto shrine that is known as Hachiman Jinja
  • The Jinushi Jinja Shinto shrine
  • The Shonen-ji temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect

The two villages present the authentic picture of small town Japan. The people are friendly; they know each other, will invite total strangers into a house and are given to the kind of hospitality you can only find in a rural setup. During your tour of Japan, make sure you grace these two villages for at least 2 days. Trust me; your stay here will be worth your while.

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