Tsumago (Nakasendo) 妻籠宿
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. Visit to experience the beautiful Kiso Valley and get a taste of Japan's feudal past.
- The gorgeous hike between Tsumago and its well-preserved neighbor Magome
- Exploring the area's ancient waterfalls
- Visiting Rekishi Shiryokan, a historical museum with good English signage that focuses on the town and Kiso Valley
How to Get There
Nagiso Station is the easiest way to access the area from both neighboring and major city centers.
From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya, then transfer to the Shinano Express for Nagiso Station. From Nagiso Station, Tsumago is a 10-minute bus ride. Buses are infrequent, but taxis are available. You can also hike in from the neighboring post town of Magome in Gifu Prefecture, which marks the southern entrance to the Nakasendo.
Cars are not permitted on the town's main road during the day
Today Tsumago is considered one of the best-preserved towns in Japan
The town's power lines are hidden to maintain its old-worldly atmosphere
Where the locals stopped time
Tsumago is an incredible success story of gumption. The village was the 46th station on the Nakasendo Trail, an Edo period (1603-1867) trade route connecting Kyoto and Edo (modern Tokyo). In 1968, at a time when Japan's urban development was at full tilt, the local council decided to preserve its main street for posterity, including prohibiting cars on the main street during the day and hiding phone lines and power cables from view.
While Japan's castles and temples exalt the elite of the past, Tsumago-juku's main street of humble wooden houses imparts insight into life at a more local level. Lined with shops, restaurants, and inns, be sure to catch Rekishi Shiryokan, a historical museum with good English signage with exhibits introducing the town and Kiso Valley.
Explore the Nakasendo Trail
Tsumago is small enough to explore in half a day. One particularly pleasant option is to take a scenic hike on the Nakasendo to the beautifully preserved nearby post town of Magome. The three-hour, nine-kilometer journey takes you through gorgeous landscapes of cypress forests and idyllic farming communities.
Witness the ancient waterfalls
Not far outside of Tsumago-juku, you'll come across a pair of picturesque waterfalls, Otake and Medaki. Named the "Men's Falls" and "Women's Falls," these natural baths likely got their names in ancient times when they were used as separate bathing areas.
History hidden on every corner
Hidden along the trail are a variety of hidden historical signposts that add to the old-time atmosphere. Noticeboards called kosatsu are located at the entrances of both Tsumago and Magome. These signs carry regulations and decrees from the ruling military government and breaking these rules which would lead to severe consequences in the past.
It's worth spending a weekend or a night at one of Tsumago's local inns to fully appreciate the atmosphere once the crowds clear out. Stroll among the old buildings with their glowing lanterns and feel as though you've slipped back in time