We are waiting for the bus to Shirakawa-go inside the bus station in the morning.
This time, I'm quite interested in the hot-food vending machine and therefore buy the Tacoyaki.
Actually, it's the microwaved food for waiting for two minutes.
The taste is still fine but not so good as the hand-made Tacoyaki.
Because we won't go to Kanazawa via Shirkawa-go, the seats between Takayama and Shirakawa-go are all non-reserved.
It's recommended to line up early for the tourists are really numerous.
If you could not get on the bus, you have to wait for the next bus for about one hour.
As for the tourists going to Kanazawa, you could book the bus tickets online.
The bus takes about one hour to arrive Shirakawa-go Ogimachi where is a village surrounded by mountians.
No doubt, it's the real Japan countryside, though the tourists make it busy.
Basically, Shirakawa-go is a wide area, a district in the west of Takayama.
Among the Gassho-zukuri villages in Shirakawa-go, Ogimachi is the largest village where most of tourists visit.
Ogimachi was declared as the Important Japanese Tradtional Architecture Preserved Area in 1976.
In 1995, Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Toyama were both declared as the UNESCO World Heritage.
Although the tourists are a lot in summer, the light-up event in the winter should be the most popular and crowed period. The schedule is usually published around June and then the tourists would reserve the accommodation for the event in a hurry.
While reaching the parking area, you could get the information or book another bus ticket in the tourist center.
Besides, there are also coin lockers for people who only plan a day trip here.
Passing the birdge over Shirakawa river, the visiting in Ogimachi is starting.
The well preserved gassho-zukuri farmhouses with thatched roofs would let you feel like being in the ancient Japan.
Some of the farmhouses have been relocated to an open air museum, such as Nagase-ke House, Kanda House, Wada house and etc.
Some are restaurants, specialty shops and minshuku (the accommodation offered by the house owner).
Someone might wonder how long could it be for watching these old houses.
However, if you study the constrcution, roof-renewing and history of the Gassho-zukuri farmhouse, and the life and work of the local people, you won't feel bored.
Even the fishes in the clear river and the green farmland are also worth staying for a while.
Of course, the best way to experience this village is to stay a night in the minshuku.
If you spend time to look for and study the information, you will have a better experience here.
Myozenji Temple is our first-visit attraction while going straight through the houses.
It is unique for its thatched roof rather than the typical tiled roof seen on most temples.
The farmhouse next to the temple is the place where the priest of the temple lived.
In front of the temple is the Shoro-mon gate (鐘樓門) which was erected in Tendai Sect style.
The entrance and ticket counter is at the farmhouse.
At the first floor, you could see the irori (囲炉裏, 居炉裏) which is a type of traditional sunken hearth common in Japan. There is no chimney connecting directly from the hearth to the outside but a small smoke vent in the roof.
You do not only feel warm (or hot) around the irori, but also breath the smoke inside the house.
The smoke from irori would make the thatched roof black. That is also why the inhabitants have to replace the roof for every 40 to 50 years.
Except for the irori, there are important materials displyed in the 1st floor, and then you could go upstairs watching the architecture of the gassho-zukuri farmhouse.
In the 3rd floor, the scenery through windows is quite nice.
If you don't have a nice camera or good photographing technique, they do sell big pictures of Shirakawa-go from spring to winter.
Basically, Myozenji Temple is really recommended to visit.
Continuing westwards, the next is Nagase House (長瀨家)
The Nagase family were doctors in the past.
Looking at the garden and the tall five-floor farmhouse, you might also feel this family should be rich.
Thus, the house exhibits some medicla tools and important collections in the 1st floor.
The TV displays the film about the roof-renewing in 2001 that is a big job cooperated by 500 local people.
In the upper floor, there are tools and facilities for farming and raising silkworms.
Besides, gassho-zukuri structure is another main point you should take a look.
Gassho-zukuri (合掌造り) means the roof looks like clasped hands. constructed like hand or hands in prayer.
This thatched roof is designed for withstanding the heavy snow in the winter.
Unlike the castles and offiers' houses, the local people could not afford the expensive materials for their house. In Addtion, the transportation is the past was not so conveninet for importing these stuff.
Therefore, the cheap and readily available materials, such as wood, clay and thatch, are the ideal choice.
Briefly, the main strcuture of the house were made from wood.
External walls were often completed with the addition of bamboo and clay, while internal walls were not fixed, and consisted of sliding wood lattice doors or wood-and-paper screens (fusuma).
As for the roof, it was made from grass and straw. Sometimes baked-clay roofing tiles were used in addition to thatch. This steeply peaked roof could allow rain and snow to fall straight off it.
The interior of the farmhouse was generally divided into two parts: a cooking area on the groud, called doma, and a raised floor coeverd in Tatami.
In the space of the raised floor, irori is the standard facility around which the family usually gather at mealtime. Sometimes, irori was allocated in the center as other space were divided into rooms separated by Fusuma.
If you look at the each part of the structure carefully, you may admire for the knowledge and technique of the ancient people.
By the way, the roof-renewing also means the heavy cost (money, materials and manpower).
Without the financial support from the Goverment or the tourism imcoming, it's not easy to maintain this traditional building.
Opposite to Nagase House is another farmhouse Kanda House (http://kandahouse.web.fc2.com/)
The strcuture is similiar to Nagase House but the inori at the 1st floor is smoking.
You could drink the free tea while watching the film about the history of Kanda family and house.
Kanda family is the branch of the Wada clan and built up a sake brewing business.
Because the land is the Holy Land (神田, Kanda) of the shrine, they changed their family name to Kanda.
With such a pace, the time is close to noon after visiting Kanda house.
Before I visit Ogimachi, I'm not sure whether the visiting would be finished soon or not, and thus prepare another plan going to Suganuma.
Suganuma is one of the main attractions of Gokayama and is designated as UNESCO World heritage with its nine gassho-zukuri farmhouses.
It's said that the scenery is also beautiful.
However, there are only four buses running between Ogimachi and Suganuma everyday.
So, it seems that I don't have to go to Suganuma to spend my day.
We find a soba restaurant for the lunch. "手打" is the important keyword for the delicious noodle or soba and it means "hand made".
The information could be found in the brochure or the map. This restaurant we found is close to Kanda house.
The seats in this restaurant are not too many and always full-occupied, especially during the lunch hours.
No doubt, the hand-made soba is really delicious and different from the machine-made.
It's quite recommended!
After the lunch, we take the shuttle bus to Shiroyama Viewpoint.
The fare is only 200 Yen. I think no one wants to walk in the hot afternoon.
Shiroyama viewpoint is the must-visit attraction in Ogimachi.
Almost the panorama photos of the Gassho-zukuri village took at this viewpoint are shown on every blog.
Except for the specialty shop, there is also photo service taking and sellling pictures for tourists in font of this panorama scene.
Shirakawa-go! Shirakawa-go! The photographer always says this word before pressing the shutter.
Because the shuttle runs every twenty minutes. This duration should be enough for your photograpging, and then you could come back to the tourist center.
My last stop of the attractions is Wada House.
Someone might wonder why I visit these houses that look so similiar.
I think that even these houses are similiar, the history and the collections will not be the same.
These tiny difference are only observed while you really visit these houses, not by your own prejudice.
Travelling is a process of experience everything on the journey. Sightseeing is only a part of your experience.
The one who only do sightseeing might feel bored, but the one who experience everything will feel rich.
I really think so.
Just as I told above, Kanda family is the branch of Wada family, and Wada family was also one of the wealthiest families and village leaders of Ogimachi.
This house is the largest gassho-zukuri farmhouse in the town.
Built in the mid to late Edo Period, this well-preserved house was once home to an official who dealt in raw silk and niter for gunpowder.
In the 1st floor and upper floor, you could observe the alive silkwarms.
It reminds me of my silkwarm raising experience while I studied the elementary school.
If you have the macro lens and the tripod, you could get a clear image of these silkwarms.
For the tourists who loves photographing, they also offer the information of the best location for taking a nice picture of Wada House.
Besides, the small path in front of Wada house is another scenic route for going back to tourist center.
Since the weather is so hot, it's nice to rest and enjoy the ice cream.
An ice cream shop is just opposite to Wada house.
Before going to our gassho-zukuri accommodation, we stay at the shrine for a while.
There is a Doburoku Festival Museum nearby.
If you come to Ogimachi on Oct 14th and 15th, you could experience the Doburoku Festival held every year.
On these days, people will pray to the Mountain God for safty and a good harvest, and offer Doburoku (an unrefined sake) to the shrine.
It's said that the museum offers the sake sample to the visitor, but it's a pity that I don't drink any wine.
However, there is a drinkable cold water flowing around here.
In such a hot weather, cold water is the best beverage.
Although we only visit the attractions in Ogimachi, I prefer the slow pace for my pgotographing.
Sometimes, the simple schedule is th best.
Traveling is not a competition. You don't have to arrange so many attractions to improve how a great traveler you are.
Anyway, around three o'clock, it's finally the time for check-in our minshuku "Shimizu" (志みづ).
It's my first time to stay overnight in this type of accommodations.
Among all the minshuku accommodations in Ogimachi, only a few family would like to recieve foreigh tourists.
The main reason is quite simple: the language.
In the countryside, most of the inhabitants could not speak English well.
Thus, Shimizu is one of the foreigner-ok accommodations I could choose.
The location is at the edge of the village, so the surrounding is quiet while the town center is crowded with tourists.
Actually, I like this farmhouse and its surrounding. That is the countryside I want to experience.
Of course, living in the gassho-zukuri farmhouse is also my main purpose.
You may see that our room owns the door to the outside.
In fact, the three rooms in this house are both in the same condition.
Therefore, you could sit on the wooden corridor viewing the nice scenery on your own.
In another aspect, the free door also means that the security in this village is pretty good.
While the weather beacomes cooler, I wander around the nearby area with my camera.
Without too many tourists and shops, I could catch the scenes as I expect.
A few farmhouse standing behind the green crops, some trees and the mountainous background.
That is an ideal picture in my mind.
The house owner may be too shy or not very good at speaking English, the family almost stay in the kitchen for most of the time.
Of course, I think maybe they are busy for preparing our dinner as well.
The interaction with the guests might be diiferent from the guesthouses in other countries.
While approaching the dinner time, another two groups of the guests are coming back.
One is the Japanese girls studing senior high school, and another is the couple from Switzerland.
The dinner is traditional dishes of stweded river fish, roasted chicken, Tempura, pan-fried beef and many side dishes.
Though it's the family operated accommodation, the served meal is as good as the restaurant.
Among these dishes, stewed fish would be the most representative food in Shirakawa-go.
You don't have to worry about the fishbones because these are already melt under the long cooking.
In the specialty shop, you could also find it. It's a recommended food you should buy and share with your friends and family.
In the night, there is nothing to do except for sinking in the hotspring of Shirakawago onsen.
Maybe it's too cloudy today, I don't see any star in the sky.
The streets became dark, silent and scared. You would not like to wander outside.
If you want to take some night scenes, the tripod is always necessary.
Because it's my first time to stay in the family-operated accommodations, I prepare the postcards as the gift to them just as I do so while visiting my friends.
I think it's the only moment I really do have the interaction with Shimizu family.
The father shows us a picture on the wall that is also a gift drawn by the Taiwan tourist.
I think that is why Japanese and Taiwanese are so close, though I could not express in words.