JDF JapanDefenseFocus No.96

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Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go
Shirakawa-go

Parts of Japan receive extremely heavy snowfall during the winter. Among these, Shirakawa-go, a village located in northwestern Gifu Prefecture, is known as one of Japan’s most prominent heavy snowfall belts, with snowfall amounts ranging from two to three meters.

Shirakawa-go is known for its Gassho-style houses. These thatch roof houses feature a steeply pitched roof made of wood that is covered with dry vegetation such as silver grass or common reed grass. This design ensures the houses to withstand the weight of the area’s heavy snow. The name Gassho derives from the shape of the roof which looks like the palms of one’s hands placed together. Some of the oldest houses in the village are nearly 200 years old. In 1995, Shikarawa-go was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama for its historical importance, outstanding ensemble of architectural technology and beautiful landscape.

This region was also once famous for its sericulture industry, which provided raw silk thread that underpinned Japan’s modernization. At the time, the large space in the attic of these houses was used to cultivate silk worms.

Gifu Prefecture, where Shirakawa-go is located, is also home to the JASDF Gifu Air Base. This base houses the Air Development and Test Wing, the JASDF’s only wing that conducts aircraft research and development and testing of aerospace equipment.

Shirakawa-go
Shirakawa-go
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