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Gassho-style (thatch roof) houses in Shirakawa-Go, Japan
UNESCO's World Heritage Site since 1995.
and neighboring Gokayama regions line the Shogawa River Valley in the
remote mountains that span from Gifu to Toyama Prefectures. Declared a
UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their
traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250
The Gassho-style houses were built between the 17th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are one of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Gasshō-zukuri style is characterized by a thatched and steeply slanting roof. The gassho roof has a slope of about 60 degrees forming a nearly equilateral triangle. This steep pitch allows snow to slide off the roof easily.
The houses are large, with three to four storeys encompassed between the low eaves, and historically intended to house large extended families and a highly efficient space for a variety of industries. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms.
Located in a mountainous region that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long period of time, these villages with their Gassho-style houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms up in the attic where the heat from the first floor, filled with people and activity, rises up.
These aren't typical Japanese farmhouses, but colossal 3 to 5-storey buildings with gigantic cedar pillars and beams held together with only hand-woven ropes, and covered with the signature 3-feet thick thatched roof. This style of architecture is known as Gassho-zukuri (literally "Praying-hands Construction"), as the steepness of the roof is said to resemble the pressing-together of the hands during a buddhist prayer.