Built during the 19th century; these homes are aligned parallel to the Sho River, giving a very harmonious landscape. The architectural style is known as ‘gasshō-zukuri’ [prayer-hands] characterized by a steep thatched roof allowing the houses to shed heavy snowfall in winter. Silk production, which needed large enclosed spaces for silkworm beds and storage of mulberry leaves, was an important factor in the development of this style of house. The smoke from open fires in these homes preserves the beams and ropes of the structure which has no nails. A roof of this type lasts some 40-50 years, after which the entire community work together to re-thatch the house. Watch them work together here:http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/734/video