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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in Japan

Escape to a remote alpine village

Explore the gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some dating back 250 years…

By Makiko Asano
Guide in Kanazawa

Traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses in Shirakawa-go, Japan

Driving through a series of tunnels, you arrive at a village cut off from the rest of the world. Shirakawa-go is located at the foot of Mount Hakusan, one of three holy mountains in Japan along with Mount Tate and Mount Fuji. In winter, the snow piles up over two meters high covering the village in a blanket of white powder from December to March.

The main attraction is the gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some over 250 years old. Their A-shaped thatched roofs resembling the hands of praying Buddhist monks are most interesting, designed to withstand winter’s heavy snowfall. The local villagers rethatch them every 30 years gathering early in the morning to work on the roofs all day long, a community effort we call yui that literally means ‘a tie’ or ‘a knot.’ This collaborative work, the essence of yui, is vital to living in the harsh, mountainous environment and one of the major factors as to why this village is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the construction is finished, they all celebrate outside with food and drink.

Some of the families here open their houses to the public to offer an insight into life in the village allowing you to get a closer look at the thatched roofs and the work that has gone into creating them. Lunch is local hoba yaki, a medley of mushrooms and meat cooked over a charcoal stove and served on a dried magnolia leaf. The flavours are well balanced with miso bubbling around the edges and paired nicely with rice and sake.


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Alfred & Makiko Asano

Born in Tokyo, Makiko met her husband in college where she studied Russian literature while obtaining a license for teaching English. They moved to Kanazawa when they married and instantly, Makiko fell in love with the city, just walking around the castle town, absorbing the history and shopping in the fish market. As a tour guide, she loves nothing more than joining guests on their amazing travel journeys.
Makiko Asano, tour guide in Kanazawa

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Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Richard, who's travelled extensively in Japan. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the tea devotee who'll introduce you to the ceremony surrounding Japan's national drink, the noodle guru who'll teach you how to make the perfect bowl of soba and the ryokan owner who'll tutor you in the relaxing art of the onsen.

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