Staying in the Gassho

In Shirakawago, many of the buildings there are called “Gassho Houses”. Although I’m not sure what the Japanese translates to, the houses have these meter-thick thatched roofs on them. They are part of the location’s designation as a World Heritage Site, and they are magnificent to see.

First I want to show you the snow:

Taller than Shirl.

When the snow on the ground meets the snow on your roof, you’ve got problems.

And when your car looks like this, your problems have problems.

Icicles that’ll kill you.

A Gassho made of snow.

Shoveling snow off the roof. Everyone’s doing it these days.

With that experience surrounding us we got to stay in one of the houses. The houses are very traditional and our room was kind of spartan. It’s square and has a table in the middle of the room, a lamp, and a kerosene heater. For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of our house but I took pictures in one of the tour houses.

The rice paper walls are beautifully decorated. Some of these are hundreds of years old.

These tables are gigantic solid slabs of wood. I’ve seen them for sale for $40,000 in some places!

We toured another gassho house and got to see how the houses are built. For the most part, they’re held together with rope! Electricity was added later and attached to the wooden beams that support the massive roof.

Some of the houses are gigantic inside and would house a few families rather than just one. In an amish sort of fashion, whenever the roof needed to be replaced the whole town would join in to help.

Our house gave us robes to wear and we had an extremely hot bath to sit in at the end of the day spend walking around. It was about $90 per person to stay there for the night, but I think it was worth every penny. They had snowboots for us to wear, flashlights to borrow, and amazing meals.

Shirl and I at dinner, which was awesome.
It cooked in front of us.

Breakfast was eggs, rice, seaweed, pickles, and other crazy stuff. I ate it all because I was really hungry!

Our house looked a lot like this and had a good view over the rest of the town.

The view from the other end.

If you want to stay in a Gassho house I recommend this site here. You can fill out a request form for a quote and it’s English and foreigner friendly. We stayed in the “Kanja” house and even though the lady at our house didn’t speak English she was incredibly nice to us and made our stay really easy. The price usually includes food, bath, tea, and even some free postcards.

To see more pictures of Shirakawago click on Summer or Winter.

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