The ancient village of Gokayama is surrounded by mountains up to 1500 meters high, and in winter, it is covered with 2 to 3 meters of snow. Gokayama Ancient Village consists of many smaller villages, distributed along a river that stretches 115 km from the Hida Plateau to the Sea of Japan.
It is the geographical and natural differences from the plains that have formed a unique culture for the ancient village of Gokayama. When coming here, visitors will feel the ancient features with the traditional Gassoho-zukuri sloping cottage architecture style and not mixed with modern architecture. The houses here were built a long time ago, with a lifespan of about 100 to 200 years, even houses up to 400 years old.
Suganuma is the centerpiece of Gokayama; the village is a small collection of residential houses, stores, and cozy family-run restaurants. It’s linked to another smaller village Gokayama Gassho no Sato, by an almost subway-esque tunnel, which these days also features an elevator (very modern). Both areas are easily explored on foot, but in terms of tourist-centric attractions, there isn’t a lot – which is a large part of its charm – so best to go with the simple plan of admiring the architecture and nature.
In addition to the unique architecture of the old houses, this place is also known for the rich heritage of folk melodies handed down to this day, the most famous of which are Kokiriko and Mugiyabushi – two songs recognized as an intangible cultural property of Japan.
Besides, tourists can experience a 1400-year-old kokiriko dance performance, take a washi paper workshop, explore the folkcraft museum, or just dip themselves in the Kuroba Hot Spring and sip the sake of Sanshoraku Brewery.
Although located far inland, the village prides itself on local fish caught fresh from nearby rivers. The most famous is the ayu fish, which is usually skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire, the meat is very crispy and tasty.