A man formed a triangle shape with his fingers and then chanted a spell and recited a prayer to the gods. The triangle shape inspired the ancestors at Shirakawa-gō in Japan to make a similar design for their house's straw roof. The sloped design means that snow does not pile up, allowing it to withstand even the harshest snow conditions.
The design—called Gassho, which literally means "constructed like hands in prayer"—is also found in Gokayama village, at the slope of Mount Haku. The roof design was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995. The village itself has survived for hundreds of years, since the 11th century.
Shirakawa-gō is a 356.55-square-kilometer area that gets a lot of snowfall. Apart from being given UNESCO World Heritage status, the village is open for all tourists wishing to enjoy thick snow and traditional architecture. In several locations near the temple and forest, the snow can be waist-high, with temperatures between minus 1 and minus 8 degrees Celsius.
Most villagers are farmers, while the rest run souvenir shops and restaurants for the tourists visiting Shirakawa-gō. [yan]