Tsumago (Ź╚Ô─) was a post town on the Nakasendo route between Kyoto and Edo. It is known today as one of the best preserved post towns in Japan. The town and its residents go to great lengths to recreate the ambience of the Edo Period. Cars are prohibited on the main street in the day and phone lines and power cables are kept concealed, allowing visitors to imagine they have slipped back to an earlier time.
Tsumago also recreates the post town atmosphere by maintaining its Honjin and Wakihonjin. In all post towns, the Honjin was the principal inn and served government officials who were traveling through. When more lodging was required, the Wakihonjin served to accommodate the travelers of lower status. Tsumago also maintains the office where laborers and horses were rented to aid in travel.
Many minshuku and ryokan are located in the town, and a stay at one of them will greatly add to the illusion of having left the modern era. If time permits, it is highly recommended to hike a preserved trail of the former Nakasendo from Tsumago to Magome. It is well maintained and well marked in both Japanese and English.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 Closed: December 29 to January 1 Admission: 300 yen 700 yen combo ticket includes Honjin, Wakihonjin and Rekishi Shiryokan
Tsumago's Honjin was reconstructed in the 1990s, but great efforts have been taken so that it resembles its condition in the 1830s, when it served as an inn.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 Closed: December 29 to January 1 Admission: 600 yen, includes entry to Rekishi Shiryokan 700 yen combo ticket includes Honjin, Wakihonjin and Rekishi Shiryokan
In contrast to the Honjin, the antiquity of the Wakihonjin is entirely genuine; with the main building dating back to the 19th century. It now serves as a museum, and tours are held in Japanese. On the second floor of one of the complex' other buildings lies a nicely-done museum with various artifacts and displays relating to the history of the area.
Hours: 8:30 to 17:00 Admission: optional donation
Kotoku Temple (Kotokuji) is a Buddhist temple which is believed to have been built in 1500. It is not particularly remarkable, but still quite pleasant.
In former times the notice board was the means of pronouncing decrees from the shogunate. This notice board is in quite good condition, and with some Japanese linguistic abilities certain prohibitions and warnings can be read.
Tsumago Castle was demolished hundreds of years ago, but the site of its ruins affords an exceptional view onto the city below. The former castle site is located on a hill about a kilometer north of Tsumago's main street.
Getting there and around
Tsumago is connected by infrequent buses with JR Nagiso Station, the closest train station. The one way trip takes about seven minutes and costs 300 yen (see timetable). Alternatively, a taxi ride costs about 1000 yen. You can also walk between Nagiso Station and Tsumago in about an hour along a marked walking trail.
With a few exceptions, most limited express trains between Nagoya or Nagano do not stop at Nagiso Station. Instead, transfer to a local train at Nakatsugawa or Kiso-Fukushima Station.