Sunday, July 12, 2015

Shirakawa-go - part 2

This post is in continuation to the previous post about our visit to the scenic historic village of Shirakawa-go located in Shogawa River valley at the foot of Mount Hakusan in the northwestern part of Gifu prefecture. Shirakawa-go is famous for its traditional Gassho-zukuri architectural style farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukuri architectural style means ‘constructed like hands in prayer’, as the farmhouses are characterized by thatched and steeply slanting roofs resembling two hands joined or pressed in prayer. The largest village and the main attraction of Shirakawa-go is Ogimachi, which is the most popular village for the visitors. We also visited Ogimachi village. In the previous post I wrote about various traditional Gassho-zukuri styled farmhouses that hubby and I saw in Ogimachi village on 29th December 2014.

After seeing Myozenji Temple premises, we continued walking along the road towards the north in Ogimachi village. Adjacent to Kuri farmhouse building of Myozenji Temple, we saw a Gassho-zukuri styled thatched roof farmhouse named Yosobe to our right side towards the east. Yosobe farmhouse now serves as a Minshuku inn. The inn has traditional Japanese-style guest rooms where visitors can have a relaxed stay. Homemade Japanese-style food is served to the guests. We loved the architectural style of Yosobe farmhouse and took a few pictures of the building from various positions and angles.
Yosobe farmhouse Minshuku inn

Another view of Yosobe farmhouse

Hubby standing in front of the farmhouse

Right across the road, to our left side towards the west, we saw a small and elegant private residence farmhouse building with Gassho-zukuri architectural styled roof. We loved the snow covered steeply slanting thatched roof of the farmhouse very much.
Snow covered roof of the private residence farmhouse

Adjacent to Yosobe Minshuku inn, we saw a comparatively small Gassho-zukuri styled farmhouse named Gasshoan located to our right side towards the east. Gasshoan farmhouse now serves as a souvenir shop selling handmade local products and accessories, small bags made by the owner of the farmhouse, as well as unique local sweets and rice crackers. The farmhouse looked grand surrounded by complete whiteness of the snow. We took a few photos of the farmhouse in such a snowy landscape from different positions and angles.
Gasshoan farmhouse

Hubby is standing in front of the farmhouse. This is the side view of the building as viewed from the north.

We continued walking along the road leading towards the north, and next saw a restaurant named Sobadokoro Nomura located to our left side towards the west. It is a rather new building with normal tiled roof, which looked remarkably different in the village full of Gassho-zukuri styled buildings. Sobadokoro Nomura is a counter-type Soba noodle restaurant with only 17 seats, and so a big queue of hungry visitors is often formed in front of the restaurant. The restaurant serves homemade Soba noodles made from locally grown buckwheat ground in a homemade stone mortar and mixed with spring water taken from Mount Hakusan. The deliciously chewy Soba noodles please and satisfy many customers. We were not hungry so skipped going to the restaurant.
Sobadokoro Nomura restaurant to the left side of the photo (red arrow)

Adjacent to Sobadokoro Nomura restaurant, we saw a small Gassho-zukuri styled private residence farmhouse building. The snow covered steeply slanting thatched roof of the farmhouse looked so elegant. In addition, we saw a few scarecrow puppets in the backyard of the farmhouse. The puppets looked so cute in the backyard full of snow.
Snow covered roof of the Gassho-zukuri styled private residence farmhouse

We got an amazing view of the backside of the private farmhouse building along with a few scarecrow puppets in its backyard. The building to the right side (red arrow) is the backside of Sobadokoro Nomura restaurant.

I am standing along with the scarecrow puppets

We walked further north along the road for another 50 meters or so and saw a building named Zensuke with normal tiled roof to our right side towards the east. Zensuke serves as a souvenir shop stocked with Hida folk art, handmade crafts like key rings, and homemade rice crackers and snacks made using rice grown and harvested by the owner. We spent some time inside the shop appreciating all the local products. In addition, right across the road, we saw an interesting spot where large amount of snow was piled up to our left side towards the west. We climbed up the 4 meters high piled up snow and enjoyed the beautiful snowy views all around us for some time. Many children enjoyed riding plastic sleds down the piled up snow.
A portion of Zensuke souvenir shop (left side, red arrow) along with many people enjoying the snowy views from the top of the piled up snow (right side). This photo is clicked from the north. The Gassho-zukuri styled private farmhouse (green arrow) has the scarecrow puppets exhibited in its backyard.

We clicked a selfie from the top of the piled up snow

Standing on the top of the piled up snow, as discussed in the previous paragraph, we saw three grand Gassho-zukuri styled thatched-roof farmhouses standing elegantly towards the north. In fact, this piled up snow area is a favorite spot for photographers to shoot these three grand farmhouses. The farmhouse building located in the front is named Ochudo and now serves as a cafe restaurant. In addition, two farmhouse buildings are located slightly behind Ochudo Cafe; the one to the right side is a private residence and the other one to the left side is named Kanda ke Jutaku or Kanda House. We wished to have a closer look at the three farmhouses, so we got down the piled up snow and walked along the snowy road to explore the exterior architecture of the buildings. In the next couple of paragraphs, I will write in details about the farmhouses Ochudo Cafe and Kanda House.
I am standing next to a snowman near the piled up snow along with the three Gassho-zukuri styled farmhouses Ochudo Cafe (1), Kanda House (2), and a private residence (3) in the background

The three farmhouses as viewed from the top of the piled up snow

Enlarged view of the three farmhouses

I am standing along a snowy road. Ochudo Cafe (1) is seen to the left side and the private residence (3) is seen to the right side of the photo. A portion of Kanda House (2) is seen in the background.

Ochudo Cafe (1), the private residence (3), and a portion of Kanda House (2) as viewed from the north side while walking along the road

As discussed in the previous paragraph, of the three grand farmhouse buildings, the one located slightly in the front is Ochudo Cafe. The cafe is a 350-year old Gassho-zukuri styled deeply slanting thatched roof farmhouse and a great place to rest after strolling in the village. On entering inside the building, it is seen that the building is semi-underground. Set around a large Irori hearth, the cafe serves curry rice, green tea, coffee, and confectioneries made using natural spring water. During some special months, a Nabe pot having Zenzai soup is slowly cooked over Irori hearth, and free refills are offered to the customers in the relaxed and cozy atmosphere inside the building. We did not enter inside but appreciated the exterior architecture of Ochudo Cafe building.
Ochudo Cafe

Kanda ke Jutaku or Kanda House is a high-quality Gassho-zukuri styled picturesque farmhouse having more than 160 years of history. It is one of the best preserved farmhouses in Ogimachi and has been turned into a museum. This stately farmhouse is located in the center of Ogimachi village and visitors can get good views of the surrounding houses from the windows of its upper floors. This Gassho-style farmhouse has steep roof trusses, truly advanced room layout, and delicate carpentry work. Due to the extremely high degree of perfection in the construction of Kanda House, it is considered to be one of the top Gassho-zukuri styled farmhouses. Kanda House is a branch of Wada House that is also located in Ogimachi. Kanda House was established in the latter part of Edo period by Wada Sajiemon, the second son of Wada family. He settled here and began the linage of Kanda Family. Earlier there used to be an Ubusuna Hachimangu Shinden shrine at the location of the present-day Kanda House. The Kanji characters of ‘Shinden’ can also be pronounced as ‘Kanda’, so the son changed his family name to ‘Kanda’ in homage to the former use of the land, and later on the son came to be known by the name Kanda Kichiemon. Kanda House is estimated to have been constructed in 1850 by a master shrine carpenter from Ishikawa prefecture and it is said that the farmhouse was constructed over a period of ten years. The building is spread over four floors, and also has a mezzanine level between the first and the second floors. After establishing themselves, Kanda Family built up a Sake brewing industry at the farmhouse. The upper stories of the house were used for silkworm production, and the owners also made fuming nitric acid, an ingredient in the gunpowder of the time, as a commodity to trade for cash. Visitors cannot stay overnight at Kanda House as it is not a Minshuku inn. However, the farmhouse has now been turned into a sort of museum and visitors are allowed to enter inside and explore various floors after paying an admission fee of 300 Yen per person. We did not enter inside the farmhouse but appreciated the exterior architecture of the building.
Kanda House

We continued walking along the snowy road towards the north, and next saw a few Gassho-zukuri styled thatched roof farmhouses in a row along the road. The first farmhouse we saw is a private residence which looked so elegant and splendid in the snow. The second farmhouse is named Tanakaya and now serves as a restaurant. Tanakaya has a rustic interior and features Irori hearth. Visitors can enjoy a quite relaxed meal at the restaurant. Azuki Dango and Sansai Soba noodles of this restaurant are famous. The third farmhouse we saw is an exquisite private residence with a small barn located in front of the main house. We were very impressed to see the snow covered barn stocked with many bundles of straws. All these Gassho-styled farmhouses in the wintry snow looked so surreal.
A Gassho-zukuri styled private residence

The private residence as viewed from a slightly different angle

Farmhouse restaurant Tanakaya

Another private residence with a small barn located in front of the main house (backside)

We immensely enjoyed the slow luxurious walk along the snowy road in Ogimachi village of Shirakawa-go. However, it was too cold and hubby forgot his gloves and cap in the car. So he almost froze after about 2.5 hours of walking in such harsh wintry conditions. Although we wished to see a few more farmhouses like Wada House and Nagase House, we decided to return to the car parking lot. Hopefully we will see these farmhouses sometime in the future.


The Untourists said...

Wow! What awesome farmhouses look in the snow! Must have been an awesome trip...

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks 'The Untourists' for your comment. Yes the snow-covered Gassho-zukuri styled farmhouses looked so great. We had a fun-filled trip.