Conservation Design for Traditional Agricultural Villages:

A Case Study of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Japan


Nobu Kuroda

World Heritage Studies, Faculty of Art and Design, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan

ABSTRACT  Agricultural villages in Japan are declining and disappearing rapidly. When an agricultural village goesextinct, its tradition and culture die as well. Conserving agricultural villages as cultural heritage sites is one way ofpreserving them for the future. Agricultural villages can be influenced by the economic and social situation of acountry. To safeguard both tangible and intangible cultural traditions, the way that we interpret them is important.Re-designing elements of the landscape may be necessary for conservation, but it may change the natural environmentof a village. This paper aims to discuss conservation design in agricultural villages through a case study ofthe historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, which are World Heritage Sites. In Shirakawa mura, there areregulations for the design of landscape elements. Tangible elements are controlled by regulations and guidelines.Gassho-style houses are crucial elements of the design, and each element has a relationship with everyday activitiessuch as agriculture and sericulture. In modern times, relationships with nature have become tenuous, and activityin forest areas has declined. To pass on the traditions and culture of these villages to the next generation, it isimportant to create new links between each element. An agricultural village cannot continue to be lively withoutresidents. The self-motivation of residents is important for the sustainable development of agricultural villages.

KEYWORDS  cultural landscape, community, Gassho-style houses, farmland, forest

Received March 26, 2019; accepted May 9, 2019.