There are mountains in the distance, quite clearly visible from our hotel window and it was obvious from that vantage point through the clear crisp morning air that it had snowed quite a bit in them overnight.
What wasn’t obvious at least for those among us who had failed to take any notice of our itinerary was that today we were heading into some of those very same mountains to the World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go, with it’s traditional Gassho-zukuri, or Praying Hands houses named for the steeply pitched thatched roofs designed to easily shed snow. There we would gain an inkling of insight into just what living conditions have been like over the centuries in a valley which in former times was completely in accessible except in summer.
We should not have been surprised when we arrived in the valley to find frozen rice fields and a liberal cover of snow on anything that thus far had not been warmed by the onset of spring, but the contrast between what we saw and the dare I say it, cherry blossom covered landscape in the town below was a little stark, and we were all suitably thrilled at the prospect of getting our toes cold. The buildings were fascinating, the village splendid as of course was the company, most of whom, (the ones not with their ever increasingly nasty colds hopefully reaching some sort of crescendo) rounded out their day with a relaxing bath in a traditional onsen or public bath, while the others kept our sneezes to ourselves somewhere safely out of doors, until the bus returned us to Kanazawa, yet again tired, but happy to a man.