Photographer's Note

Irori is a traditional Japanese oven, a stone-lined hole in the middle of the kitchen, where food is cooked on open fire. This photo was taken in a house-museum in Shirakawa-go.

I booked my stay in Shirkawa-go for early April and I expected to see lots of sakura flowers but found that, deep in the mountains, the seasons are a bit behind the lower parts of Japan. It was too early for cherry blossom and, of course, the rice paddies where muddy-brown instead of emerald-green. It wasn’t too late for snow and there are quite a few beautiful winter images on TE taken by Takero and you can also check in this photo, taken by Paul, that you can find snow there as late as 7 April. But… I should be so lucky! So I decided that, instead of my fairly boring photos of gassho zukuri surrounded by bare trees and grey mountain slopes, I will upload this interior shot.

I’m also going to write a few words about my minshuku. I have told you about my adventures in those traditional Japanese guesthouses before and the one in Shirakawa-go is worth a mention as it is the most traditional of all the ones I’ve ever seen. Instead of “normal” tourist slippers the guests were expected to wear wooden geta sandals. And, in the middle of the kitchen-cum-dining-room, there was an irori, like this one, where the food for the guests was cooked.

The interior architecture of the house was fascinating. I soon discovered that the walls in my bedroom were not really walls but large sliding doors made of paper. And none of them had locks. Two of them separated my room from the corridor and two from the adjacent rooms. All four walls looked alike and it happened once or twice that I forgot which way I was supposed to exit and walked into someone else’s room by mistake…

In spite of the lack of snow it was still very cold. To keep my bed warm at night I was given the most unusual heating implement I have ever seen – a wooden cage containing a red-hot spiral powered by electricity. It was meant to be kept under the duvet and I couldn’t stop thinking that it may start a fire, should something fall inside. But I did use it for a few nights and no accidents happened.
Have you ever watched Japanese films about late 19th and early 20th century, e.g. Memoirs of a Geisha? Staying in that house felt like being on a movie set, an incredible experience.

But everywhere you looked it was obvious that it was not a destitute household. There were quite a few very new and super modern electronic devices and… an infrared feature in the toilet that made the loo cover lift automatically when you entered the cubicle (hours of entertainment on the only rainy days during my stay…). The owners – an elderly lady and her husband chose to live that way not out poverty but because of their love for tradition.

pajaran, holmertz, Fis2, PiotrF, PaulVDV, Royaldevon, jhm, bukitgolfb301, macjake, ChrisJ has marked this note useful

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Additional Photos by Kasia Nowak (kasianowak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1614 W: 9 N: 3273] (16946)
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