See Remnants of Japan’s History Through Gassho-Zukuri Architecture at the World Heritage Site of Gokayama in Toyama Prefecture
Gokayama is located in Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture, and is home to two gassho-zukuri settlements, Ainokura and Suganuma.
“Gassho-zukuri” is the name of a historically valuable and unique type of architecture with pitched roofs that are similar in shape to hands clasped in prayer. Gassho-zukuri settlements can only be found in these snowy and mountainous areas. The Gokayama Settlement and Gifu Prefecture’s Shirakawa-go were registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995.
Departing from Kanagawa By Bus!
It’s easy to get to Gokayama via a 1-hour high-speed bus from Kanazawa Station, so I recommend visiting Kanazawa together with Gokayama.
Kanazawa Station in the early morning. I’m off to Gokayama!
The bus is run by Hokuriku Rail Road Company. Seats on the bus are reserved.
The route connects Kanazawa Station, Gokayama, Shirakawa-go, and Takayama.
A round-trip from Kanazawa Station to Gokayama-Suganuma is 2780 yen for adults.
From April through November, the bus route only stops at Gokayama-Suganuma.
On the way by bus! The natural landscape is so beautiful.
First Up is the Suganuma Gassho-Zukuri Settlement’s Photography Spot!
I’ve arrived at the “Gokayama-Suganuma” bus stop!
The view of the village from the national highway connecting the Gokayama-Suganuma bus station and Suganuma’s observation area is great for taking pictures. The view is perfect for capturing in a photo!
Incidentally, the shortest route to the Suganuma Gassho-zukuri Settlement’s observation area is via a lift, so you don’t have to take the walk along the national highway.
This was just one of the views along the national highway route!
Finally, the Exploring Begins!
There are nine gassho-zukuri buildings still standing in Suganuma. Ainokura, another settlement that is about a 15-minute drive from Suganuma, still has 23 buildings.
One defining characteristic of the gassho-zukuri construction in Gokayama is that the pitch of the buildings’ roofs is sharper than those in Shirakawa-go. Both Gokayama and Shirakawa-go are areas that receive heavy snowfall. However, while the snow in Shirakawa-go is lighter weight, the snow that falls in Gokayama contains more moisture and is heavier as a result, so the roofs of the gassho-zukuri buildings are further pitched to avoid any snow buildup.
Gassho-zukuri houses are larger than regular homes. Gassho-zukuri homes, which were typically 3-5 stories tall, used to house large families of 30 to 40 people. The vast attic spaces were used to cultivate silkworms.
The ground floors of gassho-zukuri houses were built by local carpenters, while the roofs were built with help and cooperation from all of the villagers.
A souvenir shop.
Thanks to the efforts of the local residents to preserve the natural landscape, everywhere you look is a beautiful scene.
Tasting Traditional Cuisine!
I had a light meal at “Miyage – Oyasumidokoro Arai.”
I ordered the Gokayama specialties, walnut-miso gohei mochi and Gokayama tofu.
Gohei mochi is made by skewering mochi (pounded rice), then covering it in a miso sauce and cooking it over fire.
Gokayama tofu is an unusually firm tofu that won’t lose its shape even if you tie a rope around it.
Miyage – Oyasumidokoro Arai
- 503 Suganuma, Nanto City, Toyama
- Open 365 days
Visiting the “Gokayama Minzoku-Kan Folk Museum”!
Restored from one of the oldest gassho-zukuri buildings in Suganuma, the Gokayama Minzoku-kan Folk Museum is home to over 300 remnants of tools and materials left by the past inhabitants of the area.
Gokayama Minzoku-Kan Folk Museum
- 436 Suganuma, Nanto City, Toyama
- The New Year holiday
- Admission Fee
- Adults 300 yen
Taking a break at “Sabo Tenohira.”
A coffee and cookie set is 500 yen.
The scenery from inside the shop is breathtaking.
- 400 Suganuma, Nanto City, Toyama
- 10:00-18:00. 10:00-16:00 during the winter.
You Can Stay Overnight in the Village Too! “Gokayama Gassho no Sato”
Gokayama Gassho no Sato is a food and accommodations facility located about 5 minutes on foot from the Suganuma Gassho-zukuri Settlement.
There are 13 gassho-zukuri homes still standing in this area.
Meals are available by reservation for groups of 10 and up. There are also three gassho-zukuri cottages available as accommodations.
The Suganuma Gassho-zukuri Settlement hosts seasonal illumination events too, so it might be nice to make accommodation reservations for those days!
Gokayama Gassho no Sato
- 855 Suganuma, Nanto City, Toyama
The gassho-zukuri settlements in Gokayama are smaller than those in Shirakawa-go, so in that sense it isn’t as grand of a tourist location, but it is an undeniable relic of historic Japan. You can take your time and tour the area at your leisure, and it’s a great out-of-the-way sightseeing spot.
It’s said that Gokayama is at its most beautiful in the winter when snow has accumulated. I recommend it for people who want to spend time relaxing and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.