Unesco Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization has recognized - the old Shirakawa-go and Gokayama Village is a World Cultural Heritage in 1995.
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama old villages are also called Shirakawa-go and Gokayama historical villages . In Japanese " Shirakawa" means the village of the white river, while "Gokayama" means five mountains. These two villages are located in the Tokai region in central Japan. Shirakawa-go Village is located in Gifu Prefecture and Gokayama Village is located in Toyama Prefecture.
These two villages are very famous in Japan because the houses here are built according to gassho-zukuni architecture. Gassho-zukuni architecture is an architectural style that the roofs are constructed of thatched roofs like the hands involved in prayer.
The village consists of more than one hundred old houses. In particular, there are a total of 114 roofs adjacent to each other at the foot of Haku-san mountain in Gifu Prefecture with the Shogawa line flowing across the rice fields.Shirakawa-go (meaning the ancient district of White River) carries in itself an old Japanese spirit that remains until now. The small roofs are called Gassho-zukuri , the Gassho style, a hand-like style that is piecing together prayers, a way of Japanese prayers of Buddha prayers. The old Shirakawa-go used to be a place for monks to rise before Buddhism in Japan combined with Tantra .
The houses were built with sloping roofs almost standing upright to rain and snow could not settle on the roof.
The Shirakawa-go village roofs are all lined with weedy grass, the grass is about 50cm thick. These roofs simulate images of prayers. The purpose of building that image is both religious and to protect the raging battles of nature and snow storms. The houses are built in the North or South to avoid the wind, the winter is warm and the summer is cool and pleasant. The roofs here are built with slopes for rain and snow to fall straight to the ground, not on the roof. Mountain and forest cover up to 96% of the land in both Shirakawa-go and Gokayama villages, so the life of the people here is difficult and difficult with only 4% of farmland.
Not as Shirakawa-go Village, Gokayama Village is less developed and not as crowded as Shirakawa-go. The farming villages in this region are smaller, more isolated and have very few modern houses. In Gokayama village, it is divided into many small corridors, in which Suganuma village and Ainokura village are arguably the most beautiful in Gokayama village.
The climate is harsh in the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Suganuma Village includes: Suganuma and Gokayama Gassho no Sato villages. Many gassho-zukuri houses in Suganuma have now become small museums displaying the daily life of farmers, the washi paper manufacturing industry and the gunpowder manufacturing industry being maintained in this place. At Gokayama Gassho no Sato, on the other side of the tunnel, there are still some traditional gassho-zukuri houses that are planned as a place for groups of students and school students to eat and experience Gokayama's life.
Ainokura Village : Deep in the valley, Ainokura is the most remote village of Gokayama region. It is also the largest village in the region with nearly 20 gassho-zukuri houses. Many houses are still the residence of people.
The ancient village of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage by Unesco according to the criteria (iv), (v).
Criterion (iv): The old Shirakawa-go and Gokayama villages are outstanding examples of traditional settlement areas that have been passed down from generation to generation. People in these areas have found ways to get along with nature, adapt to the natural environment and find ways to develop socio-economy.
Criterion (v): The old Shirakawa-go and Gokayama villages are also a clear evidence for the development of craft villages, contributing to perfecting the social structure. These ancient villages have also demonstrated longevity despite the rapidly changing market economy. Since 1950, when Japan began to have strong economic development, people in the two villages still maintained the rhythm of life and living habits that their many ancestors passed down.