Gokayama and Two UNESCO Heritage Villages

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Bombarded by tons of marketing from many tour operators worldwide, Shirakawa-go has been one of the most visited villages in Japan. Yet Gokayama, the village next door, doesn’t really have that kind of exposure.

Suganuma Village in pouring rain

Moreover, the assumption that Gokayama is part of Shirakawa-go since both have a traditional house called gassho-zukuri and Shirakawa-go is easier to reach than Gokayama makes Gokayama is even less-known. Let me tell you what, they are just terribly wrong!


Gokayama, literally meaning 5 mountains, is situated in the southwest of Toyama Prefecture in Nanto city. The use of the name Gokayama has begun since 1513 to generalize a group of villages spreading in 5 different areas.

From 5 mountains that consist of 40 villages, Ainokura and Suganuma village are the most beautiful ones, that have been listed on UNESCO Heritage Site since 1995 together with Ogimachi village in Shirakawa-go.

To Gokayama, you can either start your journey from Takayama City, Toyama City or Kanazawa. In my experience, the closest way to get there is to take a bus from Takayama Station in Takayama City. Please note that the only public transportation to Gokayama is a bus. No bullet trains, no trams. You can rent a car, too, if you like.

Ogimachi Station

At first, all buses will stop in Ogimachi Station, where Shirakawa-go is located, that takes an hour from Takayama Station. Then, you need to transfer to another bus going to both pretty villages in Gokayama. It takes 30 minutes to Suganuma and Ainokura for another 15 minutes.

The best way to explore Gokayama is to get a 3-day-pass for Shirakawa-go and Gokayama World Heritage Bus at Takayama Nohi Bus Terminal (next to JR Takayama Station). It will stop in all heritage sites, from Shirakawa-go (Ogimachi village) to all villages in Gokayama, including Suganuma and Ainokura village. The ticket price is about ¥3700 per person (please check the updates at the station or check the following sites: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/ , http://www.kaetsunou.co.jp/ (Japanese only))

So, going to Gokayama is not as hard as you think.

Nonetheless, I came to Gokayama twice. First in spring 2016 to visit Suganuma Village, which was accidental (check further in my previous post to know why) and second in autumn 2017 to visit Ainokura Village. Bad planning was the key problem here, that should not happen to you as both villages in Gokayama is more than easy to visit all at once, as I explained before.

Another misconception I heard is that Gokayama is situated in the same area as Shirakawa-go. All right, let me get this straight. Gokayama is in Toyama Prefecture, whereas Shirakawa-go is in Gifu Prefecture.


One of the most distinctive characteristics of Suganuma and Ainokura Village lies on the farm houses with thatched-roof almost touching the ground called gassho-zukuri. Gassho means to join one hand’s in prayer, referring to the construction shape of the roof. These unique farmhouses have been existing since Edo Period (1603-1867) when Lord Maeda was in reign.

gassho-zukuri house in Shirakawa-go, not as steep as that in Gokayama

The gassho-zukuri’s steep roof having 60 degrees angle, steeper than that in Shirakawa-go, is created that way to accelerate the snow to fall down from the roof quickly. Excessive snow creates burden and potentially collapse the roof. Apart from that, the roof is made of straw to maintain the warmth inside the house in winter time.

Surprisingly, they don’t use nails and metals to assemble all materials, that are only straw and wood from forests around the village, to build the farm house. The straw is replaced every 15 to 20 years manually by Gokayama Forest Owner’s Cooperative Association. This is indeed a time consuming kind of work. Yet, if it involves over 100 people, the process would take just a day.


The total amount of gassho-zukuri houses in Suganuma is not as many as that in Ainokura, which is only 9 left and nearly all are uninhabited.

Gokayama Folklore Museum

One of the oldest farmhouses in Suganuma is already transformed into Gokayama Folklore Museum, where you can see the exhibits of indigenous people’s way of life in the past and how they produced potassium nitrate or ensho as the main ingredient of gunpowder, silk and handmade paper called washi.


Suppose you spot the one and only gassho-zukuri having a pond surrounded by fences, it’s a sign that you have arrived safely in Suganuma.

non gassho style cafe

Besides, there are 3 non gassho-zukuri houses and some earthen wall and wooden wall storehouses protected by the government. The cafe I visited to shelter myself from pouring rain is one of the examples of a non gassho style house.

konbu tea

Traditional warm drink you should try is konbu tea, whose main ingredient is seaweed, served with rice crackers. The umami or savoury taste will somehow remind you of refreshing chicken soup, though not per se.

souvenir shop
souvenir shop


Ms. Shimizu, a guest house owner in Shirakawa-go, where I stayed back in 2016, admitted that Ainokura is her favourite village because of its breathtaking scenery and serenity. Having seen in my own naked eyes, it awakened my sense of sight and simultaneously I felt peace in my heart.


Ainokura is the largest village in Gokayama, yet not as busy as Suganuma. From 23 gassho zukuri farmhouses aged 100, 200 and the oldest 400 years, many of them are still in use.

As a visitor, you should respect the local’s privacy privacy by not trespassing their farm or backyard, picking plants or flowers and maintaining the silence. No worries, though. The good news is that you still can satisfy your curiosity about what’s inside by visiting some of the transformed heritage houses into cafes, restaurants and minshuku (family-owned traditional Japanese guest house)


Please beware that smoking is prohibited in the neighbourhood, as well as in Suganuma (and Shirakawa-go), and a very dangerous thing to do as the farmhouse straw roof is combustible!

Just like in Suganuma, inhabitants in Ainokura produced ensho, washi and silk for a living, where you can learn more in Ainokura Folk Village. Learning to craft washi, traditional Japanese handmade, could be a fun activity to do in Washi Workshop. To participate in the workshop, you need to register first and make sure to attend before 3.30 pm as it is the last admission.

souvenir shop at the entrance


Everything you see in Gokayama, from gassho style houses to surrounding crops, rice fields and shrine groves are still very-well preserved as it is until today because they are unaffected by World War II. Moreover, Gokayama is a perfect destination for those who embrace silence and dislike hustling and bustling crowds like Shirakawa-go.


In a nutshell, it deserves to be part of your itinerary to Japan once in a life time. To be honest, I didn’t regret to return to Gokayama after the screwed up plan I had made the year before.

Prince Akishino, who stayed in Ainokura twice in 1983 and 1992, once said that he has 3 favourite destinations in the world, and Gokayama is one of it.

If a Japanese prince left his heart in Gokayama, why shouldn’t you?

pantjoran tea house

Pantjoran Tea House: The Taste of Heritage in Jakarta Old Town

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Pantjoran Tea House is situated in Glodok area, Jakarta, the biggest Pecinan or Chinatown in Indonesia that has been existing since 380 years ago. Jalan Pancoran is part of Glodok area coverage, apart from Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley) and Petak Sembilan. The two-storey building is also the main gate to Jakarta Old Town, formerly called Batavia, from the south.

The name “Glodok” is inspired by “grojok grojok”, the sound of running water from the douche in the yard of the City Hall. Nonetheless, Chinese people pronounced it as “glodok”, that finally becomes an official name of the area. On the other hand, the translation of “douche”, which is pancuran in Indonesian, inspires Pancoran (local’s unofficial pronunciation of pancuran) as a street name.

Operating since nearly 3 years ago, Pantjoran Tea House is definitely not the oldest tea house and restaurant in Jakarta. Nonetheless, the age of the building is much older than the tea house itself because it used to be Apotheek Chung Hwa (Chung Hwa Pharmacy), the second oldest pharmacy in Jakarta opened in 1928.

pantjoran tea house jakarta

After it runs out of business, the building was neglected and untreated for years, occupied by illegal tenants and shop houses on the 2nd floor. After the government initiated a revitalization program in the Old Town area, The Head of Indonesia Architect Association, Ahmad Djuhara, lead the former Apotheek Chung Hwa renovation project started in September 2014. 16 months later, in December 2015, Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corp (JOTRC) CEO, Lin Che Wei, reopened the privately-owned building,  transforming it into Pantjoran Tea House. It also has been nominated as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Commemorating the tradition of drinking tea is one of the major reasons why the building is functioned as a tea house. The birth of tea culture can be traced back in the 17th century, when a Dutch botanist named Andreas Cleyer brought the tea seedling from Japan by a VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or Dutch East India Company) ship that regularly harboured around the Old Town.

At around 9.30 am, our tour guide from Jakarta Good Guide, Cindy, I and the rest of tour members arrived at Pantjoran Tea House that took 7 minutes walk from Candra Naya building. What makes it distinctive is the presence of 8 teapots on the long table situated on the right side of the entrance door.

The teapot display is in fact not only for the sake of eye-catching view, but also a symbol of solidarity in diversity that has been told from generations to generations.

pantjoran tea house

The tradition began when Gan Djie came to Batavia (now Jakarta) in 1659 for his trading business and lived in Kota Tua (Old Town) area. In 1663, he was appointed by the Dutch to be the third Kapitein der Chineezen (Chinese Captain), a prominent leader in the semi-autonomous Chinese community, until his death in 1666. His wife replaced his position until her retirement in 1678.

Captain Gan Djie and his wife were famous for their kindness and solidarity during their lives. They always put eight teapots in front of the captain’s office for peddlers and those  who were tired to shelter while zipping some tea with for of charge. Those days, cafes, restaurants as well as other food and drink vendors were rare.

Since then, the area where they lived is known as “Patekoan”, whose name is originated from pat (eight in Chinese) and teko (teapot in Indonesian). Although the name of the area has changed into Jalan Peniagaan (Peniagaan Street), a lot of people still call it as Patekoan.

pantjoran tea house

To revitalize the spirit of solidarity, those tea in the teapots are served for free for everyone, forever, even without dining at the restaurant itself. The inscription in front of the teapots says it out loud, “Tradisi ‘Patekoan’ (8 Teko); SILAKAN MINUM! TEH UNTUK KEBERSAMAAN; TEH UNTUK MASYARAKAT” (‘Patekoan’ (8 Teapots) Tradition; PLEASE HAVE A DRINK!; TEA FOR TOGETHERNESS; TEA FOR THE PEOPLE)

Cindy gave us some time to drink the tea before heading to Gang Gloria (Gloria Alley). The tea house waiter also encouraged us to do the same and convinced that it’s free.

A month later, I returned to the same place with my family. In my case, it’s my second time to taste the free black tea from one of the old-fashioned white-green teapots next to the entrance door. We planned to taste the dim sum, but it was too late. Opening at 7 am, most of the dim sum menus were already finished by 10 am. The peak hour is usually between 7.30 am to 9 am, where nearly all the guests who just finish walking and jogging around the Old Town area.

Therefore, we finally ordered some main courses to share, such as fried noodle, fuyung hai (egg omelette with minced prawn), the signature nasi goreng Pantjoran (beetroot fried rice with seafood), stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce, and 2 other remaining dim sum menus still available, ha kau (prawn crystal dumpling), chicken siomay and jasmine tea.

pantjoran tea house
first floor

The tea house interior is dominated Chinese style wooden shutters that allow sunlight coming into the dining room. The first floor where we sat is a non air-conditioned room with a fan placed on the high ceiling. Fortunately, it wasn’t so hot inside because the entrance door remained open facing our seat.

pantjoran tea house

I love what I saw on the second floor. Long and vertical windows, Chinese style wooden shutters and antiquities deliver nostalgic moments of Chinese occupation during the Dutch colonization era, although the whole parts of the interior is brand new and nothing like the original because its condition was so bad that it was hard to see the traces of the original look at that time. Moreover, it’s air conditioned and has roomy spaces among the seats.

pantjoran tea house


pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

There are several paintings depicting the old glory of Apotheek Chung Hwa on the walls. The original building was bigger in the past, yet it was cut off from 400 meters to 300 meters left due to the expansion of the street. Also, there are other paintings showing the same building with distinctive elements of colonization from 2 countries, the Japanese red torii gate and Dutch style trams passing by.

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

Apart from paintings, there are some frames of cheatsheet and chart showing the history of drinking tea, types of tea and how tea culture enters Indonesia. Suppose you have a patience in reading them all, visiting this floor feels like entering a museum.

Well, I think it’s my time to return to reality and I believe our food should be ready to serve.

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

pantjoran tea house

private seating for meetings
private room for meetings

The ha kau and chicken siomay was pretty good. We also liked the jasmine tea. Nonetheless, the fried noodle, nasi goreng Pantjoran, fuyung hai were just okay and not very special. I didn’t consume the last 3 meals since I have severe allergy in fried food, so I only conclude from what my family said about it.

There was an issue with my stir-fry chicken with salted vegetable in fermented rice sauce. The chicken was deep fried with flour instead of stir-fry. Apparently the chef improvised the menu without informing the waiter. It’s a common sense that every dish should be in line with the image and description in the menu book. I asked for a replacement since it would trigger my allergy later on. She agreed to change it with the stir-fry chicken as it should be and the taste was quite good.

pantjoran tea house
Yes, I was too late to take the pics of the food 😉

In a nutshell, Pantjoran Tea House is an interesting tourist spot and a lovely ambiance for gathering, especially in terms of history and unique heritage of Patekoan tradition that remind us to embrace cultural differences as part of a nation’s pride.

The price range is middle to high segment with an approximate total spending of Rp. 70.000 to Rp. 100.000 ($5 to $8) per person, depending on what you order. Although there are many more recommended Chinese restaurants in Jakarta, it still has a decent food quality and not a tourist trap at all.

Now you can download this article through the following link: https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/jakarta-404.html

Pantjoran Tea House

Opening hours: 07:00 am – 09.00 pm

Address: Jl. Pancoran Raya No. 4-6, Glodok

Phone: +6221 6 905904

Less Touristic UNESCO Heritage Site in Japan: Suganuma Village


As instructed by an official at Takayama Station that from Shirakawa-go, we needed to transit at Gokayama Suganuma Station to catch an intercity bus to Kanazawa. She circled the name “Gokayama Suganuma Station” on the bus schedule she passed me.

My friend Olie and I arrived at Gokayama Suganuma Station at 11 o’clock. It was surprisingly small and not very presentable for an intercity bus station, although it has some coin lockers for rent starting from ¥100 until ¥600 depending on the sizes. However, none of us suspected anything at that moment and thought it was the right place for a transfer.

Having seen on the map the day before that there’s a heritage village called Suganuma village, we followed the asphalt pathway heading downwards behind the station. We instantly noticed the signature Gassho-zukuri farm houses in front of us.

I was like, “Hey, it is indeed a very scenic location for a station. Lovely!”

gokayama suganuma village unesco heritage site
Suganuma Village access situated behind the station

We had about 40 minutes to wander around the scenic village and gave another 10 minutes extra time to walk back to the station with our hand luggage before heading to Kanazawa. The was no way that heavy rain stopped us from exploring the site.

It’s just that almost everything I captured have some traces of rain and raindrops.


Gokayama region is located in the southwest part of Toyama Prefecture, lying between 1500 meters high mountains along the gorge of the Sho River. It is said that the first settlement started in the 12th century when the defeated Tairan Clan warriors fled to Gokayama to start a new life.


Suganuma village is one of the villages in Gokayama region being listed on UNESCO Heritage Site since 1995 and The National Groups of Traditional Buildings also lists the village as an “Important Preservation District”, along with Ainokura village.

Suganuma village consists of 9 Gassho-zukuri houses, built in the end of Edo Period (1603-1867) when Lord Maeda was in reign, 3 non-Gassho-zukuri houses, some earthen and wooden-walled store houses.

gassho-zukuri gokayama japan

Gassho-zukuri houses are like nowhere else in Japan and only exist in Gokayama and Shirakawa-go. Triangle thatched rooftops that resembles an prayer pose with fingertips touching each other pointing upwards is the signature style of these heritage farmhouses, to hold heavy snow in winter time.

Nonetheless, compared to rooftops in Shirakawa-go, those in Gokayama are steeper and there’s a rounded shape on the tip of the rooftop called hafu, something that Gassho-zukuri houses in Shirakawa-go don’t have. Therefore, the snow falls down easier from Gassho-zukuri rooftops in Gokayama area.


The entire village is still in its original form, including the irrigated rice fields, dry crop land and shrine groves. The age of all the properties in the village is about 100 to 200 years old. There are restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops inside the lovely Gassho style farmhouses owned by villagers who live there.

gassho zukuri goyakama japan


It rained like cats and dogs and there was no sign of stopping anytime soon. Before exploring the site, my friend left her quite big luggage on the side of a souvenir shop entrance door, informing the store owner in advance.

Perhaps it was because the hard rain, or may be it was simply a very quiet area, that nobody noticed an unattended luggage. 40 minutes later, it was still intact and untouched. There was no need to question about the safety in the area.

souvenir shop
souvenir and snack shop
the cafe in a non-gassho style house
gokayama japan
a closer look of the price list

Actually, Gokayama Folklore Museum could be the right place to shelter ourselves. It gives more knowledge about the live of villagers in Gokayama region during Edo period through exhibitions of utensils they used for producing silkworms, gunpowder and Japanese handmade paper called washi.

However, I preferred taking pictures of the entire landscape of the village despite heavy rain since we had a very limited time. But, if time is not a problem for you, visiting the museum could be a good option.

Gokayama Folklore Museum, one of the oldest Gassho-zukuri houses in Suganuma

I was so lucky to bring my plastic raincoat, but it didn’t really ease my photography activity. I hung my camera on my neck and covered it with a plastic bag. It was quite troublesome, to be honest, since I had to take it out from the bag every time I saw something nice to take. I stopped capturing after some dewdrops appeared inside my camera LCD. (Luckily, they disappeared the next day. Phew!)

I instantly joined Olie, who had sheltered herself earlier to the cafe nearby. By the time I got there, she had made friends with 2 lovely old ladies. Despite the language barrier, they tried to make a conversation with her (and with me later on), offering us some rice crackers after that. From our mixed conversation with some words and gestures, I assumed that one of the ladies is a papier-maché artist.


I ordered kelp tea (konbu tea), a savoury-flavoured tea made of infused kombu kelp seaweed. It was a bit bizarre to have it as a tea drink, but I believe it could be delicious as a soup ingredient.

gokayama japan
shrine grove, seen from the cafe
woven sandal japan
woven sandals behind my seat
gokayama japan cafe
it’s indeed a modern interior inside the Gassho style cafe


It was 11.50 and our bus didn’t come at all. We wondered why the schedule at the bus stop (I think it’s more proper to call it a bus stop rather than a station) mentioned that the next bus would be at 12.15. The time 11.50 was never mentioned there. An Indonesian couple and a solo traveler from Hong Kong couldn’t help us much, something that was completely understandable.

Suddenly, the 2 lovely old ladies we met at the cafe joined us. We greeted each other and asked them if we could go to Kanazawa from Gokayama Suganuma Station. We showed our tickets, and both lovely ladies advised us to take the same bus as theirs and got off at Takaoka Station. In other words, we needed to buy new tickets and we lost ¥ 1,540 each because we had to take a different bus from the one in our tickets.

gokayama japan

But it didn’t matter anymore. It was a much better option than being stranded at the small bus stop for only God knows how long it could be.

The 12.15 bus was late for about 15 minutes, something not very common for a country like Japan. We totally depended on these ladies and waited for their instruction when to get off.

About 2 hours later, we got off together at Takaoka station. The lovely ladies continued their journey to Osaka by train. On the other hand, we took a train to Shin-Takaoka to transfer for another train to Kanazawa.

We thanked the lovely ladies, that happened to be our good Samaritans. We had no idea what would happen to us if they weren’t there helping us.

Nonetheless, our visit to Suganuma village would probably not happen without being lost at first. May be it happened for a reason.


Later on, we were curious what went wrong with our old tickets. We compared the bus ticket (written only in Japanese) with the bus schedule (written in English and Japanese), where the official circled the station name “Gokayama Suganuma”.

After matching all the Japanese characters from the ticket and bus schedule, it turned out that the Japanese character on the ticket means “Gassho no Sato” station, situated 1 stop before Gokayama Suganuma bus stop.

In other words, we supposed to stop at Gassho no Sato station for a intercity bus transfer to Kanazawa at 11.50! The official circled the wrong station on the bus schedule and she spoke such as bad English that I completely misunderstood her in the end!



  • Buy a 3-day-pass for Shirakawa-go and Gokayama World Heritage Bus at Takayama Nohi Bus Terminal (next to JR Takayama Station). It will stop in all heritage sites, from Shirakawa-go (Ogimachi village) to all villages in Gokayama, including Suganuma and Ainokura village. The distance between one site to another is 30 to 45 minutes. The ticket price is about ¥3700 per person (please check the updates at the station or check the following sites: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/ , http://www.kaetsunou.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
  • You only can explore Gokayama and Shirakawa-go areas by bus (and private cars). No trains available.
  • Don’t bring a large suitcase while travelling anywhere in Japan, especially if you plan to move from one place to another for multiple times. Coin lockers for large suitcases are only available at the main or bigger stations. Smaller stations and bus stops only provide coin lockers for small to medium luggage size. It costs ¥100 for a small coin locker and  ¥600 for a bigger one.
  • Choose a 4-wheeled suitcase as it adds more flexibility to drag on narrow bus alley. (Please note that even Shinkansen trains have narrow alleys, too!)
  • While visiting any heritage village in Gokayama and Shirakawa-go, please remember that there are still villagers living inside the Gassho-zukuri houses. Trespassing private properties is not allowed. Making too much noises is also unpleasant for surroundings.
  • As usual, many Japanese people don’t speak good English. A Google Translate app on your phone is extremely useful (I didn’t use that when I was at the station!) while communicating with them.