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Gassho-style houses in Shirakawa-Go, Japan - Table of Contents

EXTERIORS - Gassho-style (thatch roof) houses in Shirakawa-Go, Japan

UNESCO's World Heritage Site since 1995.

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 enormous roof is supported buy stout, oak beams called "chonabari", which are curved at the base. The roofs are rethatched every 15 to 20 years. Nowadays this is done by Gokayama Forest Owners' Cooperative.

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.

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.
2013 photos

 The house lots are surrounded by irrigated rice fields and city-crop fields, also small and irregular in shape.

Harvested rice fields

Thatch is about 3 feet in depth


Video still photograph: Thick A-frame crossbeams support the Gassho-style roofs.

Video still photograph

Manhole cover.

Photos and their arrangement 2013 Chuck LaChiusa
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