Tsumago is a post-town in Nagano. One of the most visited places in the Kiso Valley, Tsumago has been beautifully restored as an Edo Era post-town but in a more authentic manner that other similar restorations like Magome Tsumago served as an important stop on the Nakasendo, a route that connected Tokyo and Kyoto.
During the Edo period, Tsumago was the forty-second of the sixty-nine post towns, which connected Edo (present-day Tokyo) with Kyoto. Prior to becoming part of the Nakasendō, it was the tenth of eleven stations along the Kisoji, a minor trade route running through the Kiso Valley. As such, it was a relatively prosperous and cosmopolitan town, with an economy based on currency.
In 1968, local residents began an effort to restore historical sites and structures within the town. By 1971, some 20 houses had been restored, and a charter was agreed to the effect that no place in Tsumago should be "sold, hired out, or destroyed". In 1976, the town was designated by the Japanese government as a Nationally Designated Architectural Preservation Site. Despite its historical appearance, however, Tsumago is fully inhabited, though with tourist shops as the town's main business.
One of the most popular ways to access Tsumago is by the Magome-Tsumago Trail starting in neighbouring Magome, it follows a portion of the Nakasendo and takes roughly three hours, it is one of the best preserved sections of the Nakasendo crossing through old houses and green fields.
By public transport
The only way to access Magome by Public Transport is by bus. Both long and short distance buses service Tsumago. The most common way to access Magome is by taking a train to Nagiso station and then taking a bus to Tsumago. Buses from Nagiso cost ¥300 and take 7 minutes, they depart 12 times every day and are operated by Ontake Kotsu. One can also take a taxi from Nagiso. Nagiso Station is connected to Nagoya, Nagano, Matsumoto and Tokyo though direct trains to Tokyo depart rarely and it may be faster to transfer in Shojiri or Nagoya not all trains on this route stop in Nagiso and one may need to transfer at Kiso-Fukushima station in Kiso.
The only highways that run through Tsumago are Route 19 which connects Nagoya with Nagano and Route 256 which connects Gifu and Iida. Many other highways run through nearby Nakatsugawa and one will transfer there if coming from any other city, the nearest car rentals are also in Nakatsugawa.
Because Tsumago flourished as a post-town where travellers would stop while walking from Tokyo to Kyoto. Most attractions are concentrated around the Nakasendo where travellers used to walk from Tokyo and Kyoto.
Although one could travel around Tsumago by car it is not recommended as the distances are small and the main road is closed during the day to maintain its authenticity.
- 1 Nagiso Town Museum (南木曽町博物館, Nagiso-chō hakubutsukan), 2190 Azuma, ☏ . 09:00-17:00. Contains information on the areas history, the preservation of row houses and data about row houses throughout the country. The Museum is in the towns Wakihonjin which has been preserved since the Edo Period, Wakihonjins were smaller inns that served wealthier travellers ¥600 by itself, ¥700 for a combo ticket with the Honjin.
- 2 Honjin (妻籠宿本陣), 2190 Azuma, ☏ . 09:00-17:00. The primary of the post-town during the Edo-Period, although it has been restored it still looks like it's from the late-Edo Period. ¥700 for combo ticket with the Nagiso town museum (Wakihonjin).
- 3 Tsumago Castle Grounds. 24/7. Ruins of a sixteenth century castle with views of Tsumago from the top. Free.
- 4 Kotoku Temple (光徳寺, Kōtokuji), ☏ . 08:30-17:00. Small temple thought to be built in the fifteenth century. Optional donation.
- 5 Old Bulletin Board. 24/7. The place were the shogun's announcement were decreed. Those with the ability to read some Japanese may be able to read some of the shogun's warnings and prohibitions. Free.
- 6 Koi Rock (鯉岩, Koiiwa). 24/7. This rock was said to used to look like a Koi fish that greeted travellers walking the Nakasendo, due to it earthquakes it has now fallen over and its resemblences no longer remains but it is still popular with domestic visitors and considered and of the symbols of Tsumago. Free.
- Walk the Magome-Tsumago Trail. Open at all times. Simply follow the Nakasendo south out of Tsumago and in about 7km one will arrive at the prior post-town Magome, the trail is still well preserved and an enjoyable trip. It is usually walked while starting in Magome and you will have to go against the crowds and face a small uphill incline Free.
- Walk the Nakasendo to Nagiso. Open at all times. If you follow the Nakasendo north out of Tsumago and you will soon reach Nagiso station. It is not as well preserved as the Magome-Tsumago section but still pleasant. Free.
Within the Kiso Valley
- Magome, another post-town on the Nakasendō, it is usually visited before Tsumago as many choose to access Tsumago via the Magome-Tsumago Trail which begins in Magome, one could walk the trail in reverse but there will be a small uphill climb and you will have to face crowds walking the normal direction.
- Nagiso, city that administers Tsumago with many Waterfalls.
- Narai, the richest post-town of the Kiso-Valley.
- Shiojiri, the northern-most city in the Kiso Valley
Also in Chubu
- Gero Onsen, one of Japan's top onsens.
- Ina (Nagano Prefecture), home to Takato Castle Park, one of japan's top 3 cherry blossom spots.
- Matsumoto, home to one of Japan's best castles.
- Nagano, temple town and former Olympic host city.
- Nagoya, Chubu's largest city south of Magome.
- Takayama, city with well-preserved post-town.
- Yaotsu, town with museum commemorating the history of Jews in Japan.
|Routes through Magome|
|Gujo ← Nakatsugawa ←||' '||→ IIda → End|
|Nagoya ← Nakatsugawa ←||' '||→ Narai → Matsumoto|