Chūbu tour by car - Part 3:

Gujō-Hachiman & Shirakawagō

11-12 May 2009

Mae Rose had to get back to Tōkyō so we dropped her off at a station and hit the road for our next destination:

Gujō Hachiman. My father found it in some travel guide or online. This is the city where they make the majority of all the plastic food samples you see in the Japanese restaurants' show windows.

There are several companies/workshops where they make these things. They sell several small things like key rings, phone straps, fridge magnets etc relatively cheap, but prices for the "real things" are steep. It's very cool to see though.

[Photo by EJ] and you can also try for yourself! If you join the workshop, you get some PVC base shapes and the staff helps you to apply liquid parafine over a hot water bath to make it like tempura (Japanese deepfried shrimp/vegetables). As bonus you can make a leaf of lettuce from parafine. The real stuff is not parafine of course, but you get the idea and it looks quite good actually.
I found several places where they offer such a workshop, and it seems they are all the same. We went to Kōbō, alternatives are Iwasaki (which is said to be the largest and oldest) and Asahi. Websites and workshops are in Japanese, don't expect they speak English.

Next stop and last stop for the day was Shirakawagō. I had been there before in winter (see Photo Update 29) and I thought it would be great to go there again and show it to my parents. Shirakawagō is on the UNESCO world heritage list (ref. 734) because "The large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only examples of their kind in Japan."

This photo and the one above were both taken from the observatory at the north of the village

I made a reservation with one of the many minshuku (Shirakawagō accommodation sites: 1, 2, 3[JP], 4[JP]). We ended up at Jūemon, a 300 year old gasshō style house at the far south end of the village.

It happened that I picked one where grandmother plays some traditional instruments during dinner. She played mostly shamisen (the 3 string fretless guitar like instrument on the picture) but also some other weird things.

After dinner we went out for a night-walk again (like in Tsumago)

[HDR] Wada (name of the village chief) house

And the next morning, before all the tourists came, we strolled through the village once more



We visited the Wada house and also this house which belongs with the Myōzenji temple. Actually this house of the family that runs the temple was more interresting, although less famous. If you access the house, you can also go inside the temple.

[HDR] They used to have big silk-worm cultivation facilities at the top floors of the buildings.

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