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2010-07-13 05:20:05
Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are slowly gaining fame throughout Japan and the world as the home to a unique, and until recently under publicized part of Japan's culture. Located deep in the mountains of northern Gifu and Toyama prefectures, the Shirakawa-go and Gokayama districts were cut off from the rest of Japanese society because of their extremely isolated location in remote mountain valleys, and as such developed a very unique culture and lifestyle different from any other area of Japan. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer", as the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style developed over many generations and is designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that falls in the region during winter. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms.