The world heritage Shirakawa-go in winter snow. The historic villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama are one of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These villages are well known for their houses constructed in architectural style known as gasshozukuri. The Gassho-zukuri, prayer-hands construction style is characterized by a thatched and steeply slanting roof resembling two hands joined in prayer. The design is exceptionally strong and, in combination with the unique properties of the thatching, allow the houses to withstand and shed the weight of the region's heavy snowfalls in winter.