The Old Toyama Family Farmhouse | Shirakawa-go

Grand old Toyama family farmhouse front view

A Grand Farmhouse –  typical Gassho-zukuri house

Our next stop was the  Folk Museum of the old Toyama family, a grand farmhouse in  traditional style built around 1827. A  typical Gassho-zukuri house. At one time the Toyama family home housed up to forty family members, this included the extended  family with grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces living and working together in the farmhouse. The poor soil and lack of friable land to hand down to family members to make a separate living from, is the main reason for the extended families living and working together in one large farmhouse. There are several outbuildings for various purposes in the yard.
The farmhouse measures 22 meters in width,13.3 meters in-depth and 14.5 meters in height. The roof of the farmhouse  designed with very steep rafters to withstand  and shed the heavy snowfalls in winter and  keep the rain out.
Mountain Shrine opposite the Farmhouse

The area isolated by the mountains, has steep stony hillsides offering very little by way of  friable land to grow crops. The Torii gate is across the roadway opposite the farmhouse, with a very steep climb to the Shrine atop the hill. The stony hillside you see near the Torii gate is typical of the land in the area, a harsh region,even the trees seem to struggle.

Toyama Farmhouse-Torii-Gate-steps to hill-top shrine

Toyama Farmhouse-Torii-Gate-steps to hill-top shrine

Breeding silkworms

The main  industry for the family was breeding  silkworms, growing and harvesting suitable trees to feed the silkworms. The ground floor and first floor of the farmhouse  designed for family living.  The top two floors used for the silkworm breeding and storage only, as they often fill with smoke from the sunken hearth on the ground floor. Not a healthy environment for people.


Old-Toyama-farmhouse – sunken-hearth and jizai-kagi

Farmhouse – traditional Japanese interior

The Toyama family home is a very spacious farmhouse in traditional Japanese style with exposed beams, a sunken hearth and jizai-kagi in the family room. Tatami mats cover the floors. Traditionally interior walls are not fixed, instead consisting of sliding lattice doors, or wood and paper screens called fusuma. The house has a special room with a display alcove and shrine for a Priest or other special visitors. A small toilet was even provided for special guests at the rear corner of the house near to the room.

Old-Toyama-farmhouse - Shrine

Old-Toyama-farmhouse – Shrine

Beautiful handmade garments

It is hard to imagine what the family endured and how they survived in the winter months with inches and inches of snow for months on end. The Folk Museum  has a display of  beautifully handmade garments and handmade boots used by the family. The long boots can be stuffed with straw for added warmth when outside in the freezing cold. On display also, written and carefully preserved  family records and accounts. The family records would make fascinating reading, if only I could read Japanese.


Toyama farmhouse – family records


Toyama family farmhouse – hand-made vest


Toyama family  – handmade boots

The Thunder-box at the farmhouse

The thunder-box at the back-end of the house was interesting? Harsh cold winters with frozen ground; ground under a couple of feet of snow meant they needed a large facility with storage for six months. The human waste matter, mixed with straw and grass in preparation for use as fertilizer once the snow melts in spring.  Fertilizer needed to grow and ensure the survival of the trees to feed the silkworms on in this harsh region.The fertilizer also used to make gunpowder. I wonder if this is where the expression  ‘thunder box’ originated.

Toyama family farmhouse - The Thunderbox

Toyama family farmhouse – The Thunderbox area

Farmhouse thatching – Miscanthus Grass

The fiber for thatching the roof, so very, very thick-about 36 inches, is known as miscanthus. Miscanthus grass is a herbaceous perennial grass,  the Japanese variety is known as ‘Susaki’. It grows to around seven feet in height. It is  apparently very expensive today to re-thatch a roof. It requires a large number of people (between 100-200) to help with  re-thatching the roof when it is necessary. The miscanthus roof lasts about 40-50 years before it needs replacing.


Toyama family farmhouse – Front of house from Roadway

The Folk Museum

The Folk Museum with its history of the Toyama family, the different  displays of  wild animals of the region, implements, baskets, handmade clothing, handmade shoes etc. made this such an interesting visit. The Japanese deer ‘Shika’ or sika’ once an important source of food and clothing, and a native creature of the steep  forested mountain region is also on display.

Japanese Deer "Shika" or "Sika" native to the region

Japanese Deer “Shika” or “Sika” native to the region

The Old Toyama Family Farmhouse is now The Folk Museum, owned and looked after by Shirakawa Village and designated as an important cultural property.

Visiting times for the Old Toyama farmhouse:

Open: 10am – 4pm, closed on Wednesdays
Admission: 300 yen

Back on the bus for a short drive to Omigachi, the largest village in Shirakawa-go

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  1. I see you have traveled a lot and enjoy different foods. I think you would like our menu. Cheers!

    • เมนูอร่อยอย่างมีลักษณะ ฉันรัก Thaifood. ขอบคุณสำหรับการวางโดย.
      The menu looks delicious, I love Thai food. I think Japanese food is an acquired taste. Thanks for dropping by.

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