Shirakawa-go villages are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer", as the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer.
This style is supposed to be designed to reduce the large amounts of snow that fall in the region during the winter. There are several dozen of the farmhouses in the village we went to, Ogimachi. It was such a beautiful day and we instantly fell in love with the place. It had such a cosy atmosphere, water mills, beautiful flowers everywhere and that smell of hot alpine wood that made the whole place smell like a sauna. Heaven & so relaxing!
We took a walk around Ogimachi and a tour in one of the famous gassho houses. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms. I was desperate for us to stay in one of the gassho-zukuri farmhouses as I read somewhere that they cook your dinner on an open fire (irori) whilst you all cosy up together in the huge lounge. It sounded fab but the tourist office told us they were all fully booked, no surprise really since it was the middle of summer.
At around 5 we decided to pop into the local onsen at a hotel in Ogimachi which was nice but nothing to rave about. It did have a nice view over the river (but you really had to strain to see between the bamboo fence)
You know you're in the mountains when you get a rug like this in your room!
We ended up spending the night at a ryokan (Japanese hotel) down the road opposite the petrol station about a 10 min walk out of Ogimachi, hahaha, typical. The owners didn’t speak any English so I did my best broken Japanese and we were taken to our room which sported the hugest bear skin rug I’d ever seen (in fact the only one) It even had the bloody claws still in it which I stepped on with my bare feet (excuse pun), eeeewww! Now to anyone who hasn't stayed in a ryokan (Japanese style hotel) you have to sleep on the floor (on a futon mattress that you pull out) so basically one of us had to partially sleep on the bear. Guess who did? Yep, mum, hahahaha.
Mum soaking in the culture (i.e getting her "softo" ice cream fix)