Introduction to a Snowy Gokayama Village
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Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/100 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos

So, finally getting into more from our snowy new-year's trip in the mountains of Toyama Prefecture, four hours north by car (of good-weather driving) from Kyoto, picking up from the post about driving in the driving snow that ended with a desolate view at a snow-filled parking lot.

We had arrived at a tourist-parking area up the mountain from Gokayama Village (五箇山), a world-heritage site of old houses built in a very distinctive style.

At the parking lot, we entered a small building and descended in to the mountain in an elevator evocative of what you see of NORAD in movies. It let us out in the middle of a tunnel that went both directions, to villages on either side of the mountain. We headed toward the right.

Emerging from the mountain...

Anthony Intrigued By Unique Architecture of Historical Importance ( either that, or snow ) at Gokayama Village, Toyama Prefecture, Japan -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48 mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Anthony Intrigued By Unique Architecture of Historical Importance
( either that, or snow )
at Gokayama Village, Toyama Prefecture, Japan
Snow-Chair Construction at the exit from the tunnel -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 62 mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Snow-Chair Construction
at the exit from the tunnel

Near the tunnel exit is a storehouse/garage type of building that gives a good impression of the style, and of the weather...

Thatched Storehouse -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 45 mm — 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Thatched Storehouse

The snow was really coming down. I can see now in the background of the shot above that there are faint outlines of thatched houses beyond a river that runs behind the storehouse, but I didn't notice them at the time. Just too much snow.

First View of the Village -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 27 mm — 1/160 sec, f/7.1, ISO 800 — map & image datanearby photos
First View of the Village
Fumie snaps a photo with her phone while Anthony Waits Patiently -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 38 mm — 1/160 sec, f/4, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Fumie snaps a photo with her phone while
Anthony Waits Patiently

One can find thatched houses all over Japan, but the particular draw of these houses is their construction in a style called gasshou zukuri (discussed lightly on this Wikipedia page), noted for its lack of screws/nails/fasteners. Most of the house is constructed of a complex set of interlocking beams and boards, as if from some kind of hyper-advanced set of Lincoln Logs. An entire house be dismantled, transported, and reassembled at a new location with relative ease. Many of the houses in the village, in fact, originally came from elsewhere (which is a topic for another post).

Old and New -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56 mm — 1/160 sec, f/4, ISO 450 — map & image datanearby photos
Old and New

These photos are way overexposed, to bring some detail of the construction out from the dark shadows...

Front of Someone's House -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 38 mm — 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Front of Someone's House
Gable End of a different house -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 52 mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
Gable End
of a different house

In the large version of the shot above, you can see that all the beams are notched in various ways, allowing them to all interlock. Also of interest is the large, unfinished (natural shape) beam sticking out near the bottom center of the image. I'm pretty sure that's a major support beam running the length of the house, notched to hook over the gable-end beam to hold the gable walls from falling out away from the house.

While out in the snow I was using a FotoSharp Raincoat to protect the camera and lens from the weather, but I see now that had I also used an umbrella, I would have also kept flakes from immediately in front of the lens, avoiding the large distracting blobs of white that mar some of these photos. Lesson learned.

Another House -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32 mm — 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 450 — map & image datanearby photos
Another House
Detail -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Detail

The big natural beam that sticks out and hooks on the gable-end beam looks to be cracked in this house. It might be time for the 300-year maintenance.

Tourist Trap the cave in the snow pile made for additional entertainment -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48 mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Tourist Trap
the cave in the snow pile made for additional entertainment
Bottom Edge of Roof Thatch built up from layers of different materials -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Bottom Edge of Roof Thatch
built up from layers of different materials
Rush Hour -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 28 mm — 1/200 sec, f/6.3, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Rush Hour

In the photo above you can see silver boxes on either side of the road, and one way in the background. They contain high-power water guns used for fire prevention. (Not fire fighting, something I take up in another post).

In the background behind the little truck you can see the front of the house is enclosed with a protective cover of ugly corrugated plastic (seen better in the “Front of Someone's House” shot above). That helps keep the snow that falls from the roof away from the front entrance of the house, but it's quite ugly. A more authentic (but certainly more expensive style) is to use boards like this:

Every Board Has its Place -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56 mm — 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Every Board Has its Place

It's still not completely authentic to the old times (if they had these in the old times at all) because they're using modern metal brackets, but it's still a lot nicer then corrugated plastic.

Roof Detail -- Nanto, Toyama, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56 mm — 1/160 sec, f/6.3, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Roof Detail

Continued here...


All 5 comments so far, oldest first...

Wow..More snow than I ever saw when I was there in 2001 and 2002. Hope that you got to SHIRA KAWA GO . Its even more impressive. I am in Australia BTW

— comment by Peter G on January 22nd, 2010 at 6:54pm JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

it is excellent, the way they manage car parking outside the village and access by a tunnel. is it to preserve the village or because of the snow ?

I’m sure it’s to preserve the village. The village felt very uncommercial. It was wonderful. —Jeffrey

— comment by Bertrand M on January 22nd, 2010 at 11:28pm JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Ever since I was given a postcard showing the similar houses in Shirakawa, probably about 1978, I have wanted to see more of these wonderful houses, but never got there; so I am greatly enjoying your post – glad to see it is ‘to be continued’.

— comment by Peter in Wales on January 23rd, 2010 at 1:16am JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I have always been intrigued with thatched roofing, but wasn’t sure what materials are used. These appear to be some kind of long reeds, probably tied in smaller bundles way up inside. I believe the Irish huts used a special kind of reed grass. Because we have some sort of reed grass growing here,I have been tempted to try my hand on a smaller scale (like a birdhouse) just for the charming effect. Would also probably provide wonderful insulation against either heat or cold. Might like to see you visit this same place in summer and post about it then too.

— comment by Grandma Friedl, Ohio, USA on January 23rd, 2010 at 1:51am JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

“…but I see now that had I also used an umbrella…”

During our recent snow-dump here in the UK I used the deep telephoto hood from my 100-400 lens instead of the normal petal-shaped hood for my 24-105 lens (as well as a rain cover). That helped a bit more to keep the snow off the front although there is the expected vignetting at the wide end (I made sure to work with it). The next step was a UV filter on the front and a micro fiber cloth to wipe the flakes that made it through. Lastly,keep the camera pointed down with the lens cap on until ready to shoot. I think I would have thrown the umbrella away after trying to hold it with one hand while shooting one-handed with the other. Makes me think of a circus tightrope walker 😉

Also on the subject of umbrellas I have to say that they looked a little odd to me in the snow. In my years living in snowy climates (Northern Wisconsin and Alaska) I don’t think I’ve ever seen one used in the winter 🙂

The 24-70 I used has a pretty deep hood, so I didn’t worry much about snow getting on the lens (I never once wiped the lens during the entire trip, for example), but the flakes that might find themselves immediately in front of the lens that seem problematic. An umbrella would have helped here (and later I did use an umbrella, and I think those don’t suffer from the white-spot problem, but to give a hint on how busy I’ve been lately, I haven’t even looked at all the photos from the trip yet.

I grew up in very-snowy Ohio, and had never seen an umbrella in the snow. Thought it was silly at first, and still think it looks silly, but I’m sold on the practicality…. whether photographing or not. —Jeffrey

— comment by JasonP on January 23rd, 2010 at 3:25am JST (7 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink
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