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Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Located in a mountainous region that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long period of time, these villages with their Gassho-style houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only examples of their kind in Japan. Despite economic upheavals, the villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma are outstanding examples of a traditional way of life perfectly adapted to the environment and people's social and economic circumstances.

Villages historiques de Shirakawa-go et Gokayama

Situés dans une région montagneuse longtemps isolée, ces villages aux maisons de style gassho tiraient leur subsistance de la culture du mûrier et de l'élevage du ver à soie. Leurs grandes maisons au toit de chaume à double pente très accentuée sont uniques au Japon. Malgré les bouleversements économiques, les villages d'Ogimachi, d'Ainokura et de Suganuma demeurent des témoins exceptionnels de la parfaite adaptation de la vie traditionnelle à son environnement et à sa fonction sociale.

قريتا شيراكاوا-غو وغوكاياما التاريخيّتَان

تقع هاتان القريتان التي بُنيت منازلهما على أسلوب الغاسشو  في منطقة جبليّة كانت مُنعزلةً لفترةٍ طويلةٍ. وكان الأهالي فيهما يعتاشون من زراعة شجر التوت وتربية دود القزّ. فمنازل القريتَيْن الكبيرة التي تتميّز بالسّقف المصنوع من القصب والمُنحني انحناءةً مزدوجةً بارزةً، فريدةً في اليابان كلّها. وبالرغم من الاضطرابات الاقتصاديّة، بقيت قرى أوغيماشي وآينوكورا وسوغانوما شاهدةً بامتياز على التكيّف الاستثنائي للحياة التقليديّة مع بيئتها ووظيفتها الاجتماعيّة.

source: UNESCO/ERI

白川乡和五屹山历史村座

白川乡和五屹山村落,地处山区,长期以来与外界隔绝。这些村落的居民以种桑养蚕为生,当地的农舍很有特色,在日本是独一无二的,它们比一般农舍略大,为两层结构,屋顶坡面很陡,用茅草覆盖。尽管经历了严重的经济动荡,荻町、相仓和菅沼这些村落依旧体现了当地人那种与自然生活环境和社会经济环境完美适应的传统生活方式。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Исторические села Сиракава-го и Гокаяма

Села с домами в стиле “гассо”, расположенные в горном районе, который бывал надолго отрезан от остального мира в зимнее время, существовали за счет культивирования тутовых деревьев и выращивания шелкопряда. Большие дома с крутыми соломенными крышами являются уникальными для Японии. Несмотря на экономические перемены, деревни Огимати, Айнокура и Суганума - выдающиеся примеры традиционного образа жизни, прекрасно приспособленного к окружающей среде и местным социальным и экономическим условиям.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Aldeas históricas de Shirakawa-go y Gokayama

Situadas en una región montañosa aislada durante mucho tiempo, las aldeas de Ogimachi, Ainokura y Suganuma han vivido ancestralmente del cultivo de las moreras y la cría del gusano de seda. Sus casas de estilo gassho con techos de paja de doble pendiente muy inclinada son únicas en Japón. A pesar de los cambios radicales experimentados por la economía, estas aldeas constituyen un notable ejemplo de la perfecta adaptación de un estilo de vida tradicional al medio ambiente y las condiciones socioeconómicas de la población.

source: UNESCO/ERI

白川郷・五箇山の合掌造り集落

source: NFUAJ

Historische dorpen Shirakawa-go en Gokayama

De historische dorpen Shirakawa-go en Gokayama liggen in een bergachtig gebied dat lange tijd was afgesneden van de rest van de wereld. De dorpen – met huizen gebouwd in Gassho-stijl – hielden zichzelf in stand door de teelt van moerbeibomen en het houden van zijderupsen. De grote huizen met hun steil hellende rieten daken zijn de enige voorbeelden van hun soort in Japan. In de 8e eeuw werd dit gebied opengesteld als een plek voor ascetische religieuze bergaanbidding, gericht op de berg Hakusan. De dorpen Ogimachi, Ainokura en Suganuma vormen goede voorbeelden van een traditionele levenswijze, perfect aangepast aan de omgeving en de sociaaleconomische omstandigheden.

Source: unesco.nl

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Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Gassho-style houses found in the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are rare examples of their kind in Japan. Located in a river valley surrounded by the rugged high-mountain Chubu region of central Japan, these three villages were remote and isolated, and access to the area was difficult for a long period of time. The inscribed property comprises the villages of “Ogimachi” in the Shirakawa-go region, and “Ainokura” and “Suganuma” in the Gokayama region, all situated along the Sho River in Gifu and Toyama Prefectures. In response to the geographical and social background, a specific housing type evolved: rare examples of Gassho-style houses, a unique farmhouse style that makes use of highly rational structural systems evolved to adapt to the natural environment and site-specific social and economic circumstances in particular the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The large houses have steeply-pitched thatched roofs and have been preserved in groups, many with their original outbuildings which permit the associated landscapes to remain intact. 

Criterion (iv): The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are outstanding examples of traditional human settlements that are perfectly adapted to their environment and their social and economic raison d’être. 

Criterion (v): It is of considerable significance that the social structure of these villages, of which their layouts are the material manifestation, has survived despite the drastic economic changes in Japan since 1950. As a result they preserve both the spiritual and the material evidence of their long history.

Integrity

Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma are rare examples of villages in which Gassho-style houses are preserved at their original locations and in groups, as they developed in the area along the Sho River. Although since the Second World War there has been a reduction in the number of Gassho-style houses in each village, the inscribed property includes clusters of all the remaining Gassho-style houses which allows each village to retain its traditional appearance and character. Moreover, there has been no significant change to the system of roads and canals and traditional land-use patterns including trees and forest, and agricultural land.

The detrimental effects on the scenic landscape of a major highway construction less than one kilometre from Ogimachi and Suganuma has been reduced with plantings along the roadside and embankments, controls on bridge design and other protections for the view from Ogimachi Village.

The integrity of the property, therefore, is ensured in the contexts of both wholeness and intactness.

Authenticity

The three settlements constitute important historical evidence in and of themselves. The villages have existed since the 11th century and each has a strong sense of community. Traditional social systems and lifestyle customs have sustained the Gassho-style houses and their associated historic environments. From the viewpoints of setting, function, and traditional management systems, the level of authenticity is high.

While the conventional collaboration efforts by residents have functioned to maintain thatched roofs in good conditions, long-established Japanese restoration practices and principles are applied in cases in which deterioration necessitates major conservation work. Special attention is paid to the use of traditional materials and techniques, and the use of new materials is rigorously controlled. In view of the standardized modular construction of similar types of traditional wooden structures, reconstruction and replacement involve a minimum amount of conjecture. The Gassho-style houses retain their authenticity from the perspective of form and design, as well as materials and substance.

Protection and management requirements

Each of the three villages – Ogimachi, Ainokura, and Suganuma – is classified as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings under the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. This classification requires, inter alia, the preparation of municipal ordinances and preservation plans for protection, restrictions on activities that may alter the existing landscape, authorization procedures, and the provision of subsidies for approved actions. Ainokura and Suganuma are also designated as Historic Sites under the 1950 Law, and proposed alterations to the existing state must be approved by the national government. In addition, a conventional collaboration system for maintaining Gassho-style houses has been retained by the residents.

There are double buffer zones around each of the villages; an individual buffer zone surrounds each nominated property and a larger buffer zone that contains all three villages. Development pressures throughout the entire village of Ogimachi are controlled by the 2008 Shirakawa Village Landscape Ordinance, which was developed under the 2004 Landscape Law to reinforce the former 1973 Shirakawa Village Ordinance for the Natural Environment. Shirakawa Village must be notified of any proposed large-scale project, in order to confirm that the proposed work will fit in with the character of the historic and natural environment. Under the same ordinance, stricter regulations are imposed on the area immediately surrounding the World Heritage property of Ogimachi (471.5 ha).

The buffer zones immediately surrounding Ainokura, and Suganuma are protected as Historic Sites as mentioned above and as Gokayama Prefectural Natural Park under the Toyama Prefectural Natural Parks Regulations. In addition, further protection is provided under municipal ordinances implemented by Nanto City. All of these regulations and ordinances impose considerable constraints on any kind of activity that might be deemed harmful.

Overall responsibility for the protection of the property rests with the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Government of Japan. The associated bodies include the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (including the Forestry Agency), the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Gifu Prefecture, Toyama Prefecture, Shirakawa Village, and Nanto City.

Direct management of individual buildings is the responsibility of their owners, and all work is supervised as prescribed in the Preservation Plans. Routine repair work has always been carried out by the owners, and often through conventional collaborative efforts by communities, using traditional techniques and materials. The local and national governments provide both financial assistance and technical guidance.

As fire is a major hazard for the property, elaborate fire-extinguishing systems have been installed in all three village zones. Fire-fighting squads of residents are also organized.

Long Description

The historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are outstanding examples of traditional human settlements that are perfectly adapted to their environment and their social and economic raison d'être and have adjusted successfully to the profound economic changes in Japan in the past half-century.

In the 8th century AD this area was opened up as a place for ascetic religious mountain worship, centred on Mount Hakusan, for an order that combined ancient pre-Buddhist beliefs with esoteric Buddhism. In the 13th century it came under the influence of the Tendai Esoteric sect, and then by the Jodo Shinshu sect, which is still influential in the area. Its teachings played an important role in the development of the social structure of the region, based on the kumi system of mutual cooperation between neighbouring households.

Shirakawa-go was part of the territory of the Takayama Clan at the beginning of the Edo period, but from the late 17th century until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 it was under the direct control of the Edo Bakufu (military government). Gokayama was under direct rule by the Kanazawa Clan throughout the Edo period.

Because of the mountainous terrain, traditional rice-field production was not wholly successful in the area, and so the farmers turned to alternative grains such as buckwheat and millet, cultivated in small fields, but even with these the farming was at little higher than subsistence level. The few marketable products from the area were Japanese paper, made from the fibres of the paper mulberry, which occurs naturally in the area, nitre (calcium nitrate) for gunpowder production, and the basic products of sericulture (silkworms and raw silk thread). Paper production declined in the 19th century, and nitre production was brought to an end with the importation of cheap saltpetre from Europe at the same time. The silk industry survived longer, from the late 17th century until the 1970s; its requirement of large enclosed spaces for silkworm beds and storage of mulberry leaves was an important factor in the development of the gassho -style house.

The central part of Ogimachi is located on a terraced plateau east of the Sho River. Most of the houses are on individual lots separated by cultivated plots of land, reflecting traditional land use. On the sloping land near the base of the mountain the houses are on terraces supported by stone retaining walls. Their boundaries are defined by roads, irrigation channels or cultivated plots rather than walls or hedges, and so the landscape is an open one. Most have ancillary structures such as wooden-walled storehouses and grain-drying shelters, which are usually well away from the dwelling houses to minimize fire risk. The house lots are surrounded by irrigated rice fields and city-crop fields, also small and irregular in shape.

The designated group of historic buildings is composed of 117 houses and seven other structures. Of these, six are in the gassho style, most built during the 19th century; they are all aligned parallel to the Sho River, giving a very harmonious and impressive landscape. Seven houses are post-and-beam structures with rafter-framed roofs, built in the 20th century and with an overall resemblance to the gassho style. The village has two Buddhist temples, Myozen-ji and Honkaku-ji. The guardian deity of the village is housed in the Shinto shrine, Hachiman Jinja, situated at the base of the mountain and surrounded by a cedar grove.

Ainokura village is similarly located on a terraced plateau above the Sho River. Its layout is focused on the old main road. The houses and plots are broadly identical in form and size with those at Ogimachi. The group of historic buildings includes twenty gassho -style houses, most with a four-room square layout. The guardian deity of the village is housed in the Jinushi Jinja Shinto shrine, and the Buddhist centre is the Shonen-ji temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect.

The site of Suganuma is similar to those of Ogimachi and Ainokura, on a terrace overlooking the Sho River, but it is much smaller, with only eight households and a population of 40 people. Nine gassho houses survive, the most recent built as late as 1929. They resemble those of Ainokura rather than Ogimachi.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

ln the 8th centurv AD the Shirakawa-go/Gokayama area was opened up as a place for ascetic religious mountain worship, centred on Mount Hakusan, for a religious order that combined ancient pre-Buddhist beliefs with Esoteric Buddhism. In the later 13th centurv it came under the influence of the powerful Tendai Esoteric sect. which was in turn replaced by the Jo do Shinshu sect, which still very influential in the area. lts teachings played an important role in the development of the social structure of the region, based on the kumi system of mutual cooperation between neighbouring households.

The earliest written documents confirming Shirakawa-go as the name of the area date back to the mid-12th centurv; Gokayama does not appear until the beginning of the 16th centurv. The village name of Ogimachi is found in late 15th centurv documents, Ainokura in the mid-16th centurv, and suganuma in the early 17th century. Shirakawa-go was part of the territory of the Takayama Clan at the beginning of the Edo Period, but from the late 17th centurv until the Meiji Resto ration of 1868 it was under the direct control of the Edo Bakufu (military government). Gokavama was under direct rule by the Kanazawa Clan throughout the Edo Period.

Because of the mountainous terrain traditional Japanese rice-field production was not wholly successful in the a rea, and so the farmers turned to alternative grains such as buckwheat and millet, cultivated in small fields, but even with these the farming was at little higher than subsistence 1eve1. The few marketable products from the area were Japanese paper (washi), made from the fibres of the paper mulberrv, which occurs naturally in the area, nitre (calcium nitrate) for gunpowder production, and the basic products of sericulture (silkworms and raw silk thread). Paper production continued throughout the Edo Period, but declined when western paper-making processes were introduced in the 19th century. Nitre production, which had begun in the mid 17th centurv, was also brought to an end with the importation of cheap saltpetre from Europe at the same time. The silk industrv survived longer, from the late 17th century until the 19705; its requirement of large enclosed spaces for silkworm beds and storage of mulberrv leaves, was an important factor in the development of the gassho-style house.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation