Skip to main content

Volume 3 Supplement 2

Rural Heritage: Value, Conservation and Revitalisation

Conservation Design for Traditional Agricultural Villages: A Case Study of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Japan


Agricultural villages in Japan are declining and disappearing rapidly. When an agricultural village goes extinct, its tradition and culture die as well. Conserving agricultural villages as cultural heritage sites is one way of preserving them for the future. Agricultural villages can be influenced by the economic and social situation of a country. 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 environment of a village. This paper aims to discuss conservation design in agricultural villages through a case study of the historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, which are World Heritage Sites. In Shirakawa mura, there are regulations 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 activities such as agriculture and sericulture. In modern times, relationships with nature have become tenuous, and activity in forest areas has declined. To pass on the traditions and culture of these villages to the next generation, it is important to create new links between each element. An agricultural village cannot continue to be lively without residents. The self-motivation of residents is important for the sustainable development of agricultural villages.


  • ACA (Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan). 1994. “The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-Go and Gokayama, Traditional Houses in the Gassho Style.” Accessed 20 June 2019.

  • Berque, Augustin. 1990. Nihon no Fuukei Seiou no keikan: Sosite zoukei no jidai [Japanese Fuukei and Western Landscape: For Creation of Landscape]. Tokyo: Kodansha.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eco, Umberto. 1986. Travels in Hyperreality (Harvest Book). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haruna, Mirei, and Kuroda Nobu. 2010. “A Study on the Farmland Conservation in Gokayama Ainokura Village.” Landscape Research Japan 73 (5): 751–754.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayashi, Naoki, and Saito Susumu. ed. 2010. Tettai no nouson keikaku [Land Use Reorganization]. Kyoto: Gakugei Shuppan-Sha.

    Google Scholar 

  • ICOMOS. 1964. “International Charter for The Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites.”

  • ICOMOS. 1999. “The Nara Document on Authenticity.”

  • IPSI (Secretariat of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative). “Satoyama, the Japanese Traditional Agricultural Landscape.” Accessed 1 March 2019.

  • Irodori Cooperative. 2019. “Story of Irodori.” Accessed February 26 2019.

  • Ishizawa, Maya. 2018. “Cultural Landscapes Link to Nature: Learning from Satoyama and Satoumi” Built Heritage 2 (4): 7–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kuroda, Nobu. 2002. “Changes in Forest Uses and Their Influence on the Forest Landscape in Shirakawa-Mura, Ogimachi.” Landscape Research Japan 65 (5): 659–664.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries). 2015. “Multifunctional Roles of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Rural Areas.” Accessed 15 February 2019.–2.pdf

  • Matsumoto, Kunihiko, Sakai Akifumi, and Sawaki Masanori. 2017. “Landscape Management Community Organizations in the Conservation Systems after Designation of Important Cultural Landscapes.” Landscape Research Japan 80 (5): 553–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • MILT (Ministry of Land Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism). 2007. “Analysis of Current situation of hamlets for National and Regional Planning.” Accessed 26 February 2019.

  • Nanto City. 2012. “Conservation Master Plan for Gokayama, Nanto City, World Heritage Site.” Accessed 18 February 2019.

  • Nanto City 2017. “Basic Data of Population and Households.” 26 February 2019.

  • Odagiri, Tokumi. 2017. Nousanson wa shoumetsu shinai [Farming and Mountain Villages will Not Disappear]. Toyko: Iwanami shinsho.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ohno, Akira. 2008. Marginal Villages and Revitalization of Rural Area. Shizuoka Shimbun

  • Oku, Hirokazu, and Yumiko Murakami. 2011. Analysis of Utilization of Satoyama from Building Materials of a Traditional Farmhouse: History of Villages and Forests. Bun-ichi Sogo Shuppan.

  • OPNEOV (Organization for the Protection of the Natural Environment in Ogimachi Village), ed., 2011. History of Shirakwa-go Ogimachi for 40 Years. Shirakawa Mura Board of Education.

  • Otoshi, Masahiko. 1998. Village Revitalization by “Gokkun Umaji Mura”. Nihon Keizai Shinbun sha (Nikkei).

  • Shirakawa Mura. 1994. “Preservation plan for Shirakawa-Mura Ogimachi Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.”

  • Shirakawa Mura. 1998. New Edition: History of Shirakawa Village 3. Shirakawa Village.

  • Shirakawa Mura. 1999. “Preservation Rules for the Shirakawa-Mura Ogimachi Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.”

  • Statistics Bureau. 2012. “Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, S Statistics of Japan, Chapter 2, 2-1 Transition and Estimate of Population.” Accessed 26 February 2019.

  • Statistics Bureau. 2018. Census of Agriculture and Forestry. (accessed 2019-02-26).

  • Taira Mura Board of Education. 1996. “Report of Conservation and Management Plan: Historic Site of Echu Gokayama Ainokura Village.”

  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). 2015. “Policy Document for the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the World Heritage Convention as adopted by the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention at Its 20th session.”

  • Urry, John. 2002. The Tourist Gaze. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Working Group for Cultural Landscape. ed. 2016. Chiiki no mikata: Bunkatekikeikangaku no susume [How to Look at Regions: Introduction of Cultural Landscape Studies]. Nara: National Institutes for Cultural Heritage Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nobu Kuroda.

Additional information

This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number JP18K05702.

Rights and permissions

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kuroda, N. Conservation Design for Traditional Agricultural Villages: A Case Study of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Japan. Built Heritage 3, 7–23 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: