Snow snow snow... Snowakara-go!
Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
21Trip End Jan 29, 2010
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The amount of snow Shirakawa-go gets is just ridiculous. The snow drifts on the side of the road are taller than me, and in some places, taller than Ash. To ensure their houses survive the snow, they have a special form of house called a Gassho, supposedly meaning prayer in Japanese because the shape of the roofs look like two hands clasped in prayer. The roofs are very steep, the idea being that the snow slides off, so its weight doesn't damage the house. They also have to clear the snow from the top of the houses at least once a winter, and they have to be rebuilt periodically - something which involves almost the whole village! (It takes 2 days to remove the old roof, and one day to put on the new one)
Each house also has what I can only describe as a 'fire pit' inside, where they have a fire to keep the house warm and boil water and cook food. At one place, they were even using the smoke from the pit to smoke some kind of fruit! It makes the house incredibly smoky though, and blackens the insides of the house.
Anyhoo, it's a really cool place. It can be a little touristy though (lots of tour groups around, especially as we were there on a weekend), but still highly recommended. (Maybe, just maybe, my favourite place in Japan so far).