Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Back in 2008, during my first trip to Japan, Yasuko and I took a two-day trip to the mountains north-east of Nagoya to visit the characteristic historic village of Shirakawago and the wonderful old town of Takayama. This year we decided to take another two-day trip in the same area, this time to visit the historic village of Gokayama and the old town of Kanazawa.
The Shirakawa-go and neighboring Gokayama regions line the Shogawa River Valley in the remote mountains that span from Gifu to Toyama Prefectures. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.
When we got off the highway, the weather was cloudy and it started snowing at the very top of the mountains surrounding us. Our first destination was the Iwase House, just a couple of miles from the exit of the expressway. Along the road we stopped briefly to capture this beautiful temple almost hidden among the beautiful trees along the side of the road.
The Iwase House has stood unchanged in a beautiful mountain village setting for 300 years. Built as a 5-floor Gassho-style structure 300 years ago, it apparently had 35 family members living there together until the Meiji Period and is now the largest surviving Gassho-style house in Japan.
Once we entered the house, we were greeted with a nice cup of hot green tea that we sipped sitting around a hearth while listening to a talk about Gassho-style, and then we took a brief tour of the attic and visited the gift shop where lots of traditional products are available for purchase.
Before leaving, we took a quick walk in the garden surrounding the house.