Shirakawa-go is one of those villages where you can savor the atmospheres of Japan's past. Set in the valley of the Shogawa river, Shirakawa-go is made up of numerous traditional thatched houses that have earned this place the designation of UNESCO Heritage. Some houses date back over 250 years and their particular style is called "gassho-zukuri", which literally means "hands joined in prayer", due to the sloping shape of the thatched roofs. Some houses are accessible to the inside and this allows you to discover fragments of daily life of a time now far away, visiting the environments where the families lived and worked.
The Ogimachi Village is the main attraction of Shirakawa-go and is made up of dozens of traditional gassho-zukuri style houses all very well preserved. Many of these homes have been turned into minshuku (which we will talk about later), museums and restaurants where you can explore the history and traditions of this place and dive into the flavors of local cuisine. One of the main characteristics of the houses are the thatched roofs, whose sloping shape is designed to withstand the abundant snowfalls of the area during the harsh winters. Each structure is, at least, surprising: each is developed on 3 or 4 floors, with various rooms used for living and working, with the top floor traditionally used for breeding silkworms. Admiring these houses surrounded by green expanses of rice fields is an extraordinary emotion.
One of the homes of the Ogimachi Village is the former residence of the Wada family, one of the richest and most powerful families of Shirakawa-go's past. Their house is the largest in the village and can now be visited as a museum: an opportunity not to be missed to learn more about Wada's lifestyle and habits, while admiring an interesting collection of personal objects and artifacts.
If you want to admire Shirakawa-go in its
entirety, thus having a complete view of the village with its houses with
thatched roofs, I suggest you reach the viewpoint which is about 5-10 minutes
walk from the center. The viewpoint can also be reached by car.