The historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama in Japan

July 4th, 2015 | General | No Comments »

Gokayama - Ainokura © Minque

Gokayama – Ainokura © Minque

The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site is located in the Shogawa river valley stretching across the border of Gifu and Toyama Prefectures in central Japan on Honshu island. Shirakawa-gō is located in the village of Shirakawa in Gifu Prefecture. The Gokayama area is divided between the former villages of Kamitaira and Taira in Nanto, Toyama Prefecture.

These villages are well known for their houses constructed in the architectural style known as gasshō-zukuri. The Gasshō-zukuri, “prayer-hands construction” style is characterized by a thatched and steeply slanting roof resembling two hands joined in prayer. The design is exceptionally strong and, in combination with the unique properties of the thatching, allow the houses to withstand and shed the weight of the region’s heavy snowfalls in winter.

The houses are large, with three to four storeys encompassed between the low eaves, and historically intended to house large extended families and a highly efficient space for a variety of industries. The densely forested mountains of the region still occupy 96% of all land in the area, and prior to the introduction of heavy earth-moving machinery, the narrow bands of flat lands running the length of the river valley limited the area available for agriculture and homestead development.

The upper storeys of the gasshō houses were usually set aside for sericulture, while the areas below the first (ground) floor were often used for the production of nitre, one of the raw materials needed for the production of gunpowder.

Read more on – Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, Shirakawa-gō, Gokayama and Wikipedia Historic Villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama. Phots by Wikimedia Commons.


Kyzyl, capital of the Tuva Republic

July 1st, 2015 | General | No Comments »

The Center of Asia monument © Dr.A.Hugentobler/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Center of Asia monument © Dr.A.Hugentobler/cc-by-sa-3.0

Kyzyl is the capital city of the Tuva Republic in southern Siberia. The name of the city means “red” in Tuvan (as well as in many other Turkic languages) with a population of 110,000. The population of Tuva is at 308,000. Forests, mountains, and steppe make up a large part of the geography. Tos-Bulak is the area of open fields and mineral springs which lies immediately south of Kyzyl. It is the location of the Naadam festival (15 August), the Tuvan Republic Day, where various competitions such as horseriding and khuresh (wrestling) are held.

Kyzyl claims to be located exactly in the geographical center of Asia. Whether these coordinates are in fact the center of Asia is disputed (e.g., Ürümqi in China makes a similar claim). However, there is a monument labelled “Center of Asia” in English, Russian, and Tuvan which asserts this claim.

Kyzyl is located where the Yenisei River meets the Maly Yenisey River to form the Verkhny Yenisey. Most development is south of the river and follow the curves of the river, with the highest development centered where the two headstreams of the Yenisei, the Bolshoy Yenisey, and the Maly Yenisey, meet. A monument was built in 1964 on the river bank to mark this.

It was founded in 1914 as Belotsarsk (lit. White Tsar’s town). In 1918, it was renamed Khem-Beldyr, and in 1926 it was given its present name. In September 2014, Kyzyl celebrated its 100th anniversary as a city.

Read more on Kyzyl, – Kyzyl, Kyzyl Airport, Wikivoyage Kyzyl, Wikitravel Kyzyl and Wikipedia Kyzyl. Photos by Wikimedia Commons.

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