Shirakawa villagers repair famed thatched roofs

People in Shirakawa Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site in central Japan, have joined together to repair the thatched roofs of a 200-year-old temple.

Houses in the village's Shirakawa district are famous for their steeply pitched roofs, which are re-thatched every 20 to 30 years. The work has traditionally been done by members of the community. Their efforts are part of a project aimed at helping one another. They call the project "yui."

On Saturday, more than 130 villagers, including local elementary and junior high school students, took part.

The participants put around 9,000 bundles of grass-like sedge onto the roofs without using machinery. They tied the bundles to the roof frames with straw ropes. Then they pounded the surfaces with wooden tools.

More and more people nowadays are entrusting re-thatching work to professionals. This is because members of the community are getting older, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get large numbers of people to help.

Prior to Saturday, the community members had not been able to come together to re-thatch a roof for five years. The work had to be repeatedly postponed, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

A 24-year-old resident said she was participating for the first time. She said she was impressed to learn that everything was made manually. She added that she feels the tradition needs to be handed down.