Last week’s post was about Chipsu (チップス), so this week I need to start with す (su). Thank you for all your suggestions: japanaustralia with sukiyaki (すき焼き / a Japanese dish with beef), suika (スイカ / watermelon), sumi (墨 / ink), supōtsu (スポーツ / sport) and suzume (すずめ / tree sparrow), and ラマタ with sumo (相撲). They were all great suggestions! In the end, thinking I probably shouldn’t write about food for a third week running, I decided to write about…
Suganuma (すがぬま / 菅沼)
Many of you will have heard of Shirakawa-go and possibly Gokayama, and know them as a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan (yes, two places, one World Heritage Site). But how many of you have heard of Suganuma? Suganuma Village is one of the main attractions of Gokayama, which is a neighbouring region to Shirakawa-go. Whilst Shirakawa-go is really famous, not a lot seems to be written about Suganuma, and I’ve not been there myself. However, having looked into it and done a bit of research, it seems like just as lovely a place as Shirakawa-go.
As you can see on the map above, the other main tourist attraction in Gokayama, besides Suganuma Village, is Gokayama Gassho no Sato. The two areas are connected to each other by a tunnel. Gassho no Sato has a number of traditional farmhouses, but no one lives in them these days. Instead, they are used by school groups who stay overnight in the houses to experience activities from traditional Gokayama life.
When I began my research, I was first curious to know the kanji for Suganuma and how to write Suganuma Village in full. I learnt that Suganuma is written 菅沼. The first kanji, 菅, means “sedge”; any rushlike or grasslike plant of the genus Carex, growing in wet places. The second kanji, 沼, means “swamp” or “bog”. Village, in the case of Suganuma Village, is written 合掌 (gasshou) 集落 (shuuraku). “Gasshou” is the word for the particular kind of triangular thatched roofs you can see in this area, and “shuuraku” means “village” or “settlement”. So, Suganuma Village is written: 菅沼合掌集落.
Suganuma Village (bundled together with Gokayama and Shirakawa-go) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. All of the houses in Suganuma (nine in total,including two that were built in the Edo era) have been well preserved, and some of them have become restaurants, minshuku (budget inns) and museums.
As I mentioned above. the houses in this area are famous for their unusual triangular roofs, built in the style known as gassho-zukuri (合掌造り). Gassho-zukuri means “prayer-hands construction”, and is named because the steeply slanting roof resembles two hands joined in prayer. I won’t go into too much detail about this construction style today (maybe I’ll save that for another post when I need a “ga” word!). However, if you’re keen to know more now, click here for a great website that gives more detail about Gassho-style architecture.
Suganuma Village is located beside the Sho River, surrounded by the Yukimochirin mountainrange. Apparently, some of the trees in this area were planted to stop potential snowslides, so it is forbidden to cut down them down. The scenery here is truly breathtaking (from what I’ve seen and heard) and this area is a great place to visit to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy rural life.
The Gokayama region is made up of three different villages: Taira, Kamitaira, and Toga. Suganuma Village is located in Kamitaira. While Shirakawa-go is in Gifu Prefecture, Gokayama is actually in Toyama Prefecture. If you want to visit Gokayama and Suganuma Village, the best way is to take the bus from JR Takaoka Station, and get off at the Ainokuraguchi bus stop. The bus journey takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re coming from Shirakawa-go, you can just take the bus from Ogimachi (Shirakawa-go’s largest village) straight to Suganuma, which takes about 30 minutes. For more information about travel, click here. Shirakawa-go is a great place to visit, but if you want to try something even more authentic (with less tourists, shops etc), I think Suganuma might be your place! If you’re planning to stay overnight, don’t forget to book in advance. You might find what you’re looking for at www.japaneseguesthouses.com (although searching for “Suganuma” itself didn’t bring up any results when I tried).
Finally, although this post is about Suganuma, I was inspired to write it because of a blog post I saw about Shirakawa-go recently. There are some really gorgeous photos here, so I wanted to share it with you all: Life to Reset – World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go.
Suganuma (すがぬま) ends with ま (ma), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “ma”. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below and I’ll give you a mention next week! And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v