Gassho-zukuri Villages – Ainokura, Suganuma and Ogimachi – Central Honshu, Japan

Gassho-zukuri (thatched roof) villages, some of which are world heritage sites, have become a big draw in this rural region. Once left to decay as they were too expensive to repair, the Japanese are now working to preserve this quaint architectural style. With plenty of garden space for rice, vegies and flowers surrounding the homesteads and the misty mountains beyond, it’s an idyllic setting.


It was magical spending a rainy night in Ainokura, a gassho-zukuri village, dead quiet except for the crickets and the patter of rain on the roof. We woke to more rain and low fog clinging to the surrounding mountains. A break in the rain around 7 a.m. allowed for a short photo excursion before breakfast. It was annoying trying to keep the camera dry, but otherwise a pleasant morning with nice light, low clouds and brilliant colors.

It was raining again when we left around 9AM. According to the weather radar it was supposed to rain all day with the heavy stuff tapering off early. The Japanese guests and our hostess waved good bye to us like we were family.


The next village along route 156 was Suganuma. It was very quiet on a rainy morning and we encountered only a few other visitors in the short time we spent at this tiny village. It is really more a museum or display village than a working town. Still, if you are in the area it is worth the short stop.

Just as we were leaving the wind really picked up and the rain as well. So much for the tapering off. The drive along 156 is pretty, following the Shokawa river with very green hills on either side. It looks like it rains here.


Ogimachi Village, the largest and most touristed of the three, is still worth the visit despite the tourists and the rain. There was already a line of tour buses in the parking lot when we arrived at 10 but the village seemed to absorb them without much difficulty. We didn’t notice clots of tourist until we were leaving just before noon.

The village feels like a working town with a mix of picture perfect old style structures and others that are in need of some tidying and tending. If you are interested in these types of quaint villages, either for photography or other reasons, you could spend some time here. There’s a photo around every corner.

September 28, 2017

For links to all the posts in this series see the Japan page.