Since I have the bulk of my summary done and all my character bios completed well ahead of my self-imposed deadline, I decided in the two months before NaNo, I’ll do as much research as possible. I won’t get it all done–not even close–but at least I can do basic research about the culture, at least the everyday life of a farmer.
So far, I’ve done some research on the area where I’m setting the story. The village is going to be based after Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, remote villages in Gifu and Toyama prefectures. The area is very unique among Japan, most renown for their gassho-zurkuri type houses (named such because the steep angle of the roof is similar to praying hands). The houses were large and often held extended families up to 30 or 40 people. (For the purpose of my story though, there will only be around 9 or 10 in the house and they’ll be minor characters).
The culture of the area is unique too because the villages were so remote and often cut off from the world because of the heavy snowfall during the winter. It was this way even up to the 1970s when the main roads were developed. It’s often said this is one of the last remaining places in Japan to go “undiscovered”.
Perfect setting then for my book. A place cut off from the rest of the world and a place where winter is especially brutal. What better place for my Yuki-onna to live?
Here’s a picture of the types of houses that are in the area:
There used to be hundreds of these scattered throughout the Shogawa river valley. Unfortunately many succumbed to old age and modern progression, especially when the dam and man-made lake Miboro were developed. I’ve read that some of the houses were dismantled and moved in order to prevent their destruction. Thank goodness for that!
There’s still a good number of these houses in the area, and quite a few allow visitors to spend a night. There’s also a few houses turned museums too. Ah, to travel there…that would be a dream!
Here’s a panoramic view of the village of Shirakawa-go:
I’ve even found videos on YouTube of tourists traveling here as well as a few good ones of the house interiors (one is in Japanese and I can’t understand it, but the visuals are great).
Sometimes I just love research