Sunday, we woke up quite early, grabbed a few things for breakfast from the nearest convenience store and headed to Johana (Joe-Ha-Na).
From Johana it was a bus ride through the mountains until we reached the Sasarakan parking area in the Gokayama area.
Gokayama was deemed a UNESCO site in 1995. There are 2 villages in this area, Suganuma & Ainokura. Most of the houses in this area are 100 to 200 years old (or older).
Nothing was really open at this parking area, probably because it was Sunday, but we were able to pick up tochimochi (rice cake made with tochi (horse chestnut)) made by Haba Seika.
Unusually, this was on the bitter side, but this held us over until lunch.
Across the street from the parking area was the Iwase House.
This house is the largest Gassho-zukuri house in the area. Gassho means to press your hands together in prayer. Zukuri means to make.
Since snow is heavier in this part of Toyama, the roof has a slope of about 60-degrees and forms an equilateral triangle shape.
The steep pitch of the roof allows the snow to slide off.
There are no main poles vertically in the house, just large beams going across called "chonabari".
These beams are naturally curved and no nails are used. The roof frame is held together with rope and hazel boughs called "neso".
Every 15 to 20 years the roof is re-thatched.
The irori (hearth/fireplace) in the middle of the home is not only used to cook fish with, it heats the room and is used to treat the inside of the roof. Most bugs can't withstand the smoke and heat from hearth.
Mr Iwase, who gave a little background about the house, is the 18th generation. This house was apparently 300 years old.
Climbing up to the 2nd floor was hair-raising as the ladder is very steep.
NOTE: if you aren't confident that your legs will hold you up on the steep ladder, stay downstairs...
Since the winters are long and hard, they did a lot of work indoors, like making silk with silk worms, gun powder and washi (Japanese paper).
The upper floors were usually used to keep the silk worms. This particular house housed up to 36 people until 1910!
Now, only 6 people (4 adults and 2 children) reside here.
We then walked about 3.5 kilometers to the next village, Suganuma.
On the way, we passed through a tiny area called Gassho-no-sato.
Another 5 minutes and we arrived at Suganuma.
This area has many houses and shops. Here is a link to a panorama shot I took.
Lunch was at Gorobei.
I ordered the Gokayama tofu set...1500 yen. Gokayama tofu is a really dense tofu (soy bean curd). There were different dishes using the tofu. I enjoyed this.
Satoshi chose the Iwana (char) sashimi set...1500 yen... um, his fish was taking its last breaths...eep!
After lunch we caught the bus to Kaminashi.
This is where we saw the Kokiriko dance. You can see a video of it here.
Kokiriko is a traditional dance performed in the Kaminashi area with sasara. The sasara has 108 slats to represent the 108 sins of humans. Men perform this dance every 9/25 & 9/26 in this area with this instrument. With a quick whip of the wrist, the sound that the slats make is supposed to resemble the rubbing ears of rice together.
And we also saw the Murakami house, which was about 400 years old.
Here we were also able to see Mr Murakami perform a song using another traditional instrument, I didn't get the name of this one but it was 2 bamboo sticks.
They were also having a festival of sorts with shishimae (she-she-my, lions). The lions would go to each house in the village and perform for the families. The dancers would then be fed by the families. This sort of reminded me of the Chinese lion dance during Chinese New Years.
Across the street from the Murakami house is the exile hut. During the Edo period, huts like this were used to confine elite criminals (they weren't chained but were free to walk around). Food would be sent across the river with a basket and rope. Satoshi said that most people didn't know how to swim back then...
From Kaminashi we caught the bus to Ainokura, where we would spend the night at Goyomon.
Tucked in a valley, this was something to behold. There are about 20 houses in this village. Most are places for people to stay at.
The lady of the pension was really nice.
Since the other family that was supposed to stay over cancelled, we were the only guests.
So, she asked her husband to let us tag along with him to the nearby onsen, Kuroba Onsen. (Satoshi was stoked because he had wanted to check this place out, but since we weren't renting a car, it was quite inconvenient for us to do so on our own.)
For 600 yen, you can take a bath and look out onto the Shogawa (Sho-river).
For everyone who thinks Japanese women are prim and proper, it is here where I saw two older women cat brawling in the bath, and yeah, they weren't wearing clothes! yikes!
Anyway, after all the commotion, we made it back just in time for dinner.
Salted iwana (char) cooked over the coals, carp sashimi, and many other goodies.
I was so full after dinner and tired too.
It was a very long day.
Phone: 0763.67.3741 (Closed Tuesdays)