My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Research Time: Round 1

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 🙂

Comments on: "Research Time: Round 1" (6)

  1. Your interest in Japan is amazing! I really hope you can go visit someday. 🙂

  2. Wow, it sounds perfect. I love your description of the roofs. It seems that Asian culture is so reflective of their surroundings in the naming of things and the retelling of their stories. It’s almost too easy to draw symbolism from the environment!

  3. Depending on when your story is set, there’s an excellent book that goes over the farming techniques during the Tokugawa shogunate that I read for one of my classes in college. And, though they did have some jumps in technology during this time, most of what they used was similar to that in earlier periods.

    The book is, er…

    Oh, you may have to buy it used. Huh.

    Anyway, it’s “Tokugawa Japan: The Social and Economic Antecedents of Modern Japan” edited by Nakane Chie. The particular essay within the book that I remember having good diagrams was written by Sato Tsueno.

    Here’s a bit more info about the book:

    I don’t know how much it has on day-to-day life (it’s been over a year since I read it), but at the very least it would give a good background on the socio-economic policies of the time.

    If you have any particular questions about Japan, throw ’em at me. Though I warn you, I’m not too familiar with Gifu and Toyama as I live in Kyushu. 🙂

    Excited to find another Japan-phile!

  4. […] my village is going to be fictional, but it’ll be based off the region where the villages of Shirakawa-go are located.  (I still have to come up with a nifty sounding name for the village […]

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