Shirakawago & Gokayama

Ogimachi (Shirakawago) | what to see, buy and eat

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Ogimachi is the largest village in the World Heritage sites in Shirakawago and Gokayama.

There are many shops, restaurants and cultural facilities. If you wish to enjoy those kind of things, Ogimachi is a place for you.

The express bus or a private car are the only ways to access to Ogimachi. From Toyama station, for example, it takes about 80 to 100 minutes from Toyama station by car.

Ogimachi Observatory & General information of the village

If you wish to see the full scale of the village, you cannot miss Ogimachi Observatory.

Ogimachi observatory is located on the top of the hill. You can take the shuttle bus which is available between 9:00 and 15:40 (return bus also)

General information of Ogimachi village

General Information of Ogimachi World Heritage site
Population 1,600
Number of Households 500
Village Area 365.5km
Elevation 500m
Non-thatched houses 329
Thatched houses 114
Inhabited gassho houses 59

History of Shirakawago

13th century Ikko sect spead to Shirakawago
17th century Shirakawago became under control of Tokugawa shogunate
19th century Sericulture industry flourished and the population increased in Shirakawago
20th century Gassho houses decreased as the construction of the dam began.
1976 A.D. Ogimachi was designated as one of Preservation Districts for Important Traditional Buildings to put a stop to the decline in gassho houses.
   

Things to note in Shirakawago

  • Please do not enter private homes and gardens that are not open to public.
  • Please refrain from smoking while you are walking. Gassho houses are vulnerable to fire. 
  • Please bring back your trash. There are no trash bins in Ogimachi village.

Characteristics of gassho house

The gassho house is characterized by its great functionality.

  • steep roof
    It allows heavy snow to easily fall off so as to prevent the house collapsing under the weight of the snow. 
  • gables facing north and south
    It faces north and south so as to allow sunlight to reach both sides of the roof and easily melt the snow. It can ensure good ventilation to bring the clean air inside. As a result, it removes CO2 generated by the roasting of the hearth.
  • no nails

    The structure of gassho house does not use a single nail, but instead uses a method of combining pieces of wood and tying them together with ropes. Therefore, the gassho house can bend under the weight of snow, distributing the weight and passing it through.

  • hearth on 1st floor
    When the inhabitant uses fire on the 1st floor, the warm air and smoke goes up to the 2nd floor, creating a suitable condition for sericulture; It has a strong effect to keep out harmful insects. Moreover, roasting makes ropes much stronger like wire as the soot melts on them.

Wada House

Wada House is one of the biggest gassho-houses which was owned by the ex-village chief, Masami Wada.

Focusing on the tourism value of Ogimachi, he established an ordinance to make the village designated as an Important Traditional Building Group Protection District of the country.  

Moreover, he opened his house in public, which is nation’s Important Cultural Asset.

Eventually, Shirakawago became one of the largest tourist places in Japan, famed by the title as World Heritage.

Wada House 1st floor

There is a large room with tatami-matted floor and Buddhist alter.

This is the place for inviting relatives, neighbors and other locals to the Buddhist memorial event known as “ho’on koh”

This event is also meant to deepen the bonding of the community in order to cope with the nature difficulty. 

 Wada House 2nd floor

There was a workplace for sericulture.

Sericulture farmers feed on mulberry and raise silkworms to produce cocoons. 

The inhabitant made living by selling the cocoons to silk mills. 

The people of the household call the silkworms with the honorific title of ‘Okaiko-sama’ as a sign of gratitude for the silkworms that have supported the family’s livelihood.

Myozen-ji Temple

In the Edo period, Myozen-ji Temple functioned as town’s meeting place where you can listen to monk’s sermon. 

Myozen-ji is one of the nationally rare temple because the structure is designed based on gassho-style. 

The main hall was built by a renowned carpenter from Kokubun-ji temple in Takayama almost 260 years ago.

The frames were made from strong wood materials like Japanese cypress, which can stay strong and never rotten for a long time.

Inside of the temple, you can see many elegant sculptures and beautiful garden featured with mountaneous climate. 

Shourou-mon gate is also one of the highlights in this temple. It was made by approximately 1,400 carpenters convened in throughout Hida region. 

Shourou-mon gate is also installed with a thatched roof without exception here.

The bell was made by the alchemy artisan from Takaoka, Toyama prefecture.

As I introduced, Ogimachi is a good place to learn how the Japanese villegers lived in a difficult land as well as good landscape. 

Hope you to enjoy the journey in this World Heritage site with gratitude.

Bye for now!

 

 

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ABOUT ME
YUICHI
YUICHI
National Licensed Guide Interpreter / Web Creator
Hi my name is YUICHI. I was born in Toyama, Japan. I guide foreign tourists with a passion to promote the popularity of Hokuriku & Hida region. I'm a friendly person who like to listen to the story of your country such as food, culture and history. I also like to enjoy walking, cooking, drinking and traveling.
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