Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shirakawa-go: Definitely-Go!

There are some places in the world that just look exactly the way you hoped they would.  For me, the only thing missing from Shirakawa was Mr. Miyagi.  It is the so-quaint-it-will-make-you-sick kind of beautiful - a remote mountainous town that small in size and big on charm.  After this aerial view I couldn't wait to see the town below.
The only way to access the village is a rope foot bridge.  Yup, I intrigued.
Although there are a number of travelers who come to see the village, there are just 600 people who live here and they each keep a beautiful garden.
It was like nature was just leaping out at us - literally!  Just as we arrived a little green frog promptly hitched a ride on Matt's backpack.  I like his style, zero carbon footprint.

Everything was so pretty, I couldn't bear to pick them (though tempted).
I'm a tree hugger, this cedar really deserved some love after surviving 600 years!
Serene or not, it was still extremely hot in Japan everyday we were there, so when Matt had the chance to soak up some of the run off from the cold mountain stream, kicked off his sandals and jumped right in.
No, it's not cream of wheat, much to my dismay!  This is a special and extremely rare unrefined sake made with sake mash.  It's not for sale anywhere, it is is made by the monks of the Hachiman Shrine in the village and they make a limited number of casks for personal consumption and ceremonial reasons.  It's so thick and creamy that bits of rice are still floating in it!  At about 30 proof it is surprising sweet and goes down like a sake-milkshake!
The famous architectural legacy of this mountainous area is the gassho-style farmhouses. These houses are known for their tall, steeply-sloped thatched gable roof with an angle of about 60 degrees. This roof shape, which looks like one's hands put together with the palms facing inward, is the origin of the name of the architectural style, "Gassho", which means to join one's hands in prayer. As it snows heavily in winter in this region, this steeply-sloped roof helps the snow to slip off and prevents the house from being crushed.  And the whole house is held together with pegs, grooves, and ropes - no nails!  They would rust with all the moisture from snow and rain.
The entrance to the Hachiman Shrine was a beautiful sight set amongst the ancient cedar trees.
The alpine forest ensured that the breeze actually smelled like pine needles!
You can see how many floors that steep roof accommodates, they need all the space they can get during the hard winters, where everyone lives inside - even the livestock!  Yup, they are on the first floor next to the kitchen.  Don't have to go to far for your milk.

Matt and I are wondering what the real estate market is like in the village...(is this a good school district?)

If you look really closely I think you can actually see Mr. Miyagi in the window - perfection!

1 comment:

jimdad said...

Thanks for a great post.

As the song lyrics go, I feel like "I'm already there."

P.S. Do you think McD's will make room on their new healthy menu for a saki milkshake?