Tsumago (Nakasendo)

Remote feudal-era village where time stands still

Located on the old Nakasendo merchant trail and bordering with Gifu Prefecture in the Kiso Valley, the tiny town of Tsumago remains one of japan‘s most untouched villages. It is a place where time seems to stand still, offering visitors a glimpse into Japan’s feudal past.

Tsumago is situated on the Nakasendo Trail, which was an important trade route during the Edo period. This trail connected Kyoto and Edo (modern Tokyo) and served as a lifeline for merchants and travelers. Tsumago was the 42nd station on this trail, and it played a significant role in facilitating trade and communication between the two major cities.

In the late 1960s, when Japan was rapidly urbanizing, the local council made a bold decision to preserve Tsumago’s main street and its traditional wooden houses. As a result, the town has been able to maintain its old-worldly atmosphere, with cars not being permitted on the main road during the day. This decision has made Tsumago one of the best-preserved towns in Japan and a living testament to its rich history.

One of the highlights of a visit to Tsumago is the hike between Tsumago and its neighboring town, Magome. This gorgeous hike takes you through scenic landscapes of cypress forests and idyllic farming communities. The three-hour, nine-kilometer journey is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Kiso Valley and experience the same path that countless travelers took centuries ago.

Another must-visit attraction in Tsumago is the Rekishi Shiryokan, a historical museum that provides valuable insights into the town’s history and the Kiso Valley. The museum features exhibits with good English signage, making it accessible to international visitors. Here, you can learn about the daily lives of the people who lived along the Nakasendo Trail and gain a deeper understanding of Japan’s feudal past.

Beyond the historical significance of Tsumago, the town also boasts stunning natural attractions. Just outside of Tsumago, you’ll find a pair of picturesque waterfalls known as Otake and Medaki. These waterfalls, also known as the “Men’s Falls” and “Women’s Falls,” were likely used as separate bathing areas in ancient times. The sight of these cascading waterfalls amidst the lush greenery is truly a sight to behold.

As you explore Tsumago, you’ll come across various hidden historical signposts that add to the old-time atmosphere of the town. Noticeboards called kosatsu can be found at the entrances of Tsumago and Magome. These signs carry regulations and decrees from the ruling military government during the Edo period. They serve as a reminder of the strict rules and severe consequences that governed life in feudal Japan.

To fully appreciate the charm of Tsumago, it is recommended to spend a weekend or a night at one of the local inns. Once the day-trippers have left, you can take a leisurely stroll through the town’s old buildings, illuminated by glowing lanterns. It is an experience that transports you back in time and allows you to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Japan.

Getting to Tsumago is relatively straightforward. The nearest station is Nagiso Station, which can be accessed from both neighboring and major city centers. From Tokyo Station, you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya and then transfer to the JR Shinano Limited Express line for Nagiso Station. From Nagiso Station, Tsumago is just a 10-minute bus ride away. Alternatively, you can hike in from the neighboring post town of Magome, which marks the southern entrance to the Nakasendo Trail.

It is important to note that cars are not permitted on Tsumago’s main road during the day, further enhancing the town’s peaceful and untouched atmosphere. This restriction allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty and tranquility of the surroundings without the disturbance of modern transportation.

In conclusion, Tsumago is a hidden gem that offers a unique glimpse into Japan’s feudal past. Its well-preserved streets, traditional wooden houses, and historical attractions make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Whether you choose to hike along the Nakasendo Trail, explore the ancient waterfalls, or simply soak in the old-worldly atmosphere, a visit to Tsumago is sure to be a memorable and enriching experience.

Address And Maps Location:

Kiso-gun, Nagano-ken

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