It’s Andres, from Boutique Japan.
This month’s postcard comes from one of Japan’s most picture-postcard villages.
Anyone who’s done a decent amount of research into planning a trip to Japan has come across a photo of a tiny rural village filled with old-fashioned looking thatched-roof houses in the shape of praying hands.
These “praying hands” houses—called gassho-zukuri in Japanese—are famously characteristic of the UNESCO World Heritage villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama.
Located deep in the mountains of the Japanese Alps, the houses’ sloped roofs are able to withstand the heavy snowfall the area receives each winter. While a major tourist attraction during the day, it’s possible to spend the night in some of these houses, for a truly quiet and remote rural Japanese experience.
The accommodations are very rustic—simple tatami-mat rooms, shared bath and toilet—but incredibly charming. Most are run by lovely local couples, who take pride in their simple lodgings, and particularly in their food.
The local cuisine is varied and delicious, based primarily around the bountiful local produce and rice, with some meat and seafood included for good measure.
Most tourists flock to Shirakawa-go (and the iconic Ogimachi village), but these photos were taken in Gokayama, in the beautiful village of Ainokura.
No matter where you go you’ll see plenty of day trippers, but don’t let that spoil the experience. The villages’ scenery, architecture, people, and food are all worth the visit.
The easiest jumping-off points for a visit to Gokayama or Shirakawa-go are the coastal city of Kanazawa, and the mountain town of Takayama. To get here you’ll need to hire a car and driver, rent a car, or take the bus. Most people take the bus, as it’s reliable and very affordable.
As for when to visit, you can visit in any season. Winters are cold and harsh, but there is nothing cozier than sitting around the irori (hearth) drinking tea, and enjoying comforting winter food. Enjoy!
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Founder, Boutique Japan