Japan // Central Honshu //

Suganuma and around

Route 156 along the Shō-kawa valley tunnels through the mountains, running for the most part alongside the frequently dammed river as it meanders north. Some 10km from Ogimachi, the road passes the quaint hamlet of SUGANUMA (菅沼), featuring nine gasshō-zukuri, beside a sharp bend in the river. Pop into the Gokayama Minzoku-kan (五箇山民族館), made up of two houses, one displaying artefacts from daily life, the other detailing the production of gunpowder, made here because the remote location allowed the ruling Kaga clan to keep it secret.

Some 4km from Suganuma, the modern village of Kaminashi is worth a stop to inspect the Murakami-ke (村上家), one of the oldest houses in the valley, dating from 1578. The owner gives guided tours around the tatami rooms, pointing out the sunken pit beside the entrance where gunpowder was once made, and finishing with spirited singing of folk tunes accompanied by a performance of the bin-zasara, a rattle made of wooden strips.