• Kyodo

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The village of Kamitaira, Toyama Prefecture, has built a training facility to teach traditional Japanese roof-thatching skills to younger generations as the current masters are aging.

Nine traditional houses with the unique “gassho-style” thatched roof stand in the Suganuma district of the village, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Gokayama Forestry Cooperative has been re-thatching the roofs every two or three decades.

But the masters in charge of maintaining the roofs are aging and elderly workers have fallen from the roofs while working.

Inside the 70 million yen training center is a roof frame 6 meters long, 3.6 meters wide and 4.9 meters high. Veteran workers will conduct demonstrations on the framework to teach their craft.

The structure was produced with pine and cedar in the traditional manner without using a single nail, the officials said.

They also hope to use the facility to provide opportunities for tourists and students on school excursions to try their hand at traditional Japanese roof-thatching.

The village of Taira, Toyama Prefecture, and Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture, face the same challenge of training successors in the traditional skills.

The three villages were inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as World Heritage sites in 1995 for their large farmhouses with unique double, steeply pitched, thatched roofs.

The local architectural tradition was developed under the influence of the region’s severe climate, with heavy snowfall, and steep mountainous terrain.

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