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The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama remained isolated from the modern world for a long time. The villages are known for their Gassho-style houses. These steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only remaining examples of their kind in Japan.

The villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma in Japan preserve the ancient thatched roof treasures. Atop Gassho-style houses in the  Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, we find rare examples of ancient thatching. Ogimachi in the Shirakawa-go region and Ainokura and Suganuma in the Gokayama region house these rare examples. See, it’s hard to keep up on thatch preservation. The Gassho-style houses are ancient farmhouses that fit in with their geographical areas perfectly. The villagers cultivated mulberry trees and raised silkworms for centuries. The steep slopes of these roofs allowed the thatch to last longer. These farmers used roof pitches that helped reduce the need for maintenance in the wet climate.

Few Thatched Gassho-Style Houses Remain

Still, due to intense maintenance needs and changes in lifestyle, few thatched roof houses of this type remain.  The villages first formed in the 11th century. The strong sense of community increased the chances of preservation for these amazing roofs. Collaboration efforts by village residents kept these thatched roofs in good shape. See, they used ancient Japanese restoration processes along the way. Still, major conservation work also helped preserve these houses with their amazing roofs. Conservation efforts control the use of new materials so that these houses retain their authenticity.

The 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties protects the houses further. The villages each classify as “an Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings” under this law.