Today we go to Shirakawa-go. We started by taking a train to Takayama again, then catching a connecting bus. Shirakawa-go is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site that historically was difficult to access. I heard that before it would be a 2 day trek to get to Takayama because it involved ascending and descending so many mountains. Now there is broad that cuts through the mountains to be a more direct route, which means the majority of the trip was underground in the mountains, with only small moments where you hit a valley in-between. The town is famous for the housing style called gasshō-zukuri which are known for their steep roofs (which are based on praying hands) as well we a heavy thatched roof to withstand the heavy snowfall they are susceptible to each year. We were told 2 meters is not uncommon.
Shirakawa-go is also a very tourist popular destination. There were many busses in the parking lot (which is across the river from the main town). Most people only stay the day as there are not many places that accommodate people. Thankfully it was arrange for us to stay in one of these traditional houses.
After lunch we had a guided tour around town. What is interesting about the english translator (a local) and the hiking guide we will have tomorrow (also a local) is that because the town is so small and nothing really to do, many young go off to New Zealand before coming home (I am not sure why New Zealand). So both had a Japanese-New Zealand english hybrid accent. The houses here are maintained by a heritage community of 25 people who have rigorous rules about how the town is to be maintained and the rules around having these houses. Fore example you can only have 1 porch light. The roofs are replaced every 30 years or so and the entire community gets involved in the work.
The roofs are also very susceptible to fire. So there are a sires of water guns located around the town. One per house. Every year they actually have a fire drill and spray the houses and it is actually now a popular tourist event to venture out to see as it kinda looks like a giant water park (we were shown photos). We then visited the Wada-ke House, which was owned by a wealthy family and has since been converted into a museum.
After the tour a few of us took a walk through the a forrest trail around the town and eventually worked our way up to the observation hill that looks down onto the town.
The evening concluded with a large dinner held for us in our guest house which included rice with orange and grapefruit wrapped in a magnolia leaf, more Hida beef, and various locally grown vegetables.