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.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Japan features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

Japan travel tips: 13 things to know before you go

With its glittering royal palaces, ancient temples and sacred shrines as well as sandy beaches, some of the world’s best skiing and beautiful national parks, …

14 Nov 2016 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

As the biggest city in the world, it’s unsurprising that Tokyo is crammed full of different places to stay – and with each district boasting its own charact…

11 Nov 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
What happens when you blend English tradition with Japanese craftsmanship

What happens when you blend English tradition with Japanese craftsmanship

In a delicious meeting of two worlds, the most English of drinks has been combined with Japanese craftsmanship to create a premium craft gin, KI NO BI (“the b…

06 Oct 2016 • Rebecca Hallett insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month