Shirakawago is a little town tucked in-between the mountains, with a whole lot of preserved old-fashioned A-frame thatched houses. We arrived in the afternoon (after passing through an amazing array of tunnels through the mountains), and did a loop of the sights before heading over to our inn — itself a historic thatched building. The work that goes into maintaining the thatch is significant, but the roofs (which locals say are shaped like two hands, praying) are very strong against the large amounts of winter snow. The houses are quite large — 3 or 4 stories, with living spaces below and working areas above. Many people raised silk worms in the attics (and cats to make sure the rodents didn’t get to the worms). Several of the old houses were open for tours, and we banged our heads, creaked across the often open-slats of the upper floors, and scaled ladder-like stairs to walk through them. They had quite a few displays of traditional crafts, clothing, and tools, and also gorgeous views out the windows to the mountains.
Our little bed and breakfast was adorable, and since not much is open past five, they also fed us a full dinner and breakfast around the hearth. There were two other Japanese couples also staying, and it was a cozy group. Dinner was gorgeous and plentiful — lots of little plates of noodles, rice, mushrooms (which the owner had picked himself in the woods), fish, soup, tempura, vegetables and so on. Breakfast was similar and amazing. Our room even had an “electric carpet” which is like an electric blanket except it goes under the futons.