This section is dedicated to take away all your "I wish someone had told me that before I went!" experiences. This way, you can spend less time settling in, and more time making new friends in your chosen hostel. We share our insider knowledge of tips, tricks and important things to look out for in Gokayama.
The ancient region of Gokayama showcases a traditional culture and lifestyle that has been preserved for hundreds of years, thanks to the area’s secluded location in southeastern Toyama, Japan, near the upper reaches of the Shogawa river. The area has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, primarily due to the remarkable architectural style of the traditional gassho-zukuri houses.
Most of these houses are hundreds of years old, and feature unique pitched roofs with a slope of nearly 60 degrees – forming houses shaped almost into equilateral triangles. The steep roofs, which prevent the build-up of snow, are supported by sturdy oak beams, called chonabari. These can be found in two settlements within Gokayama, Ainokura and Suganuma.
The name Gokayama means “Five Valleys,” referring to the spectacular terrain within this region. Locals believe the area was given the name because there was a village among the five valleys along the river – Akao-dani, Kami-Nashi-dani, Shimo-Nashi-dani, Otani, and Toga-dani.
There are hostels and hotels here, but it is quite remote. The nearest larger city is Takaoka, and many tourists looking to visit Goyakama find accommodations in a hotel or hostel there. However, there are some rental properties and guesthouses in this area for visitors.
Many of these local properties as gassho structures, and will provide guests with dinner and breakfast. Most dinners will be traditional Japanese dishes, primarily made with river fish and mountain vegetables, and your sleeping quarters will be either a futon or a tatami mat.
This area is somewhat inaccessible, making it difficult for travelers to get in and out of Goyakama. However, you can reach Takaoka either by rail or by bus, from the airports in Tokyo and Osaka. To get to a hostel or hotel in Goyakama, you’ll need to take a bus or taxi from there.
Written by local enthusiast for Gokayama hostelsJakob Lombardi