Historic memories – Tsumago juku 江戶時代的風貌
A few years ago a friend told me about a couple of towns in Japan with a lot of historic memories. I made a mental note to visit them at the next available opportunity. My recent Japan trip was the perfect opportunity to see Tsumago juku and Magome juku. Today I’m going to Tsumago juku first.
Japan was united by the Tokugawa feudal family during the Edo period between the 17th to 19th century. The Tokugawa family was based out of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) yet the imperial capital was in Kyoto, over 500km away. The Nakasendo was one of the two main highways that linked Edo with Kyoto during the Edo period. Nakasendo literally translates to the road through the mountain, and was often preferred by travellers over the other sea coast route. Thus it became the main means of communication with the imperial capital.
There were 69 post towns along this ancient Nakasendo route. These post towns were established by the government to control the highway and provide accommodation and meals for officials travelling through. Tsumago juku is the 42nd post town from Edo.
江戶時代的日本首都位於京都。連接京都和江戶(今天的東京)有兩條主要道路。 中山道是其中一條。 中山道全長500多公里，一公設有69個宿場，即是我們今天的休息站。從京都出發，妻籠是第42個宿場， 當年是蠻繁榮及發達。 後來鐵路興起，亦代表宿場的沒落。 直到60年代尾，妻龍一群居民發起要重修 妻籠昔日的光輝。 而在1976年，妻籠更被日本政府被列為重要的建築物群保存地區。 今天妻籠是一個非常值得去的旅遊景點。
FROM PROSPERITY TO DECLINE
Due to its location on the Nakasendo, Tsumago juku became a prosperous and wealthy town. However, later on when the railway and bigger roads were built during the Meiji era, the function of these post towns became less important. Tsumago along with many other post towns started to decline.
At the end of the 1960s, some of the local residents at Tsumago decided to restore their town back to the Edo period and bring back some historic memories. Their premise was not to sell, lend or demolish houses. Their efforts paid off. In 1976 Tsumago was named as a Nationally-designated Architectural Preservation Site by the Japanese government. Today it is a popular tourist location.
GETTING TO TSUMAGO JUKU
I arrived at Tsumago juku quite early in the morning and parked at the car park across the road. There are four car parks here with plenty of parking spaces. Alternatively, if you’re not driving, you can catch the bus here. However, from the look of the timetable, the buses doesn’t seem to be that frequent. It’s best to check in advance if you plan to take public transport.
A TOWN FULL OF HISTORIC MEMORIES
There are many famous landspots along the town (it’s really more of a street) and they give you a really useful guide map at the car park. I didn’t actually use it that much when I was there as I like to explore on my own. However, it did come in very handy now that I’m writing about my visit as it has a lot of reference material.
早鳥有蟲吃這句說話對於去妻籠的朋友非常貼切。我在早上去到還沒什麼遊人。 街道兩旁 的建築物都被復修到以前江戶時代的樣子。而且周圍都看不到日本常見外掛的電纜。 初秋到日本，正是柿子豐收季節，周圍都見到一 一串串掛起風乾的柿子。 配搭秋天落葉，構成一幅非常美麗的圖書。 希望大家會喜歡我拍了的視頻。 下次會為大家介紹馬籠記緊要留意噢！
I started walking from the top of the street. This part was accessible by cars as it’s also by the bus stop. The rest of the street is closed off to traffic making is a very pleasant walk. As I walked along, I saw the first scenic point. This is the Koi Iwa or carp stone. According to the guide map, “this was one of the three famous rocks of the Nakasendo Road and looked like a carp.” Hard to imagine right? That’s because the head part was destroyed in a big earthquake in 1891. Now we’ll just have to use our imagination.
Beautiful restored houses and a working watermill lined the hill as I walked down towards the main street.
They say early bird catches the worm and that’s certainly true when you visit a popular tourist area like Tsumago. There’s hardly anyone on the street at this time of the day. I fully utilised this opportunity to take some videos (you can see this further below) and photo duties were left to my other half.
TOURING WITH YOUR OWN EYES
I’m going to stop talking (or rather writing) now and let you watch the video. I just want to say this is a stunning town, and it was the perfect time to visit. It does itself justice without me having to do much in the video. The residents have taken a lot of care to not expose any power cables so they can preserve the ancient Edo feel of the town. And persimmons were in season when I went. These are the lovely orange fruit hanging outside the buildings. Not only do they become a delicious snack, they also make a beautiful decoration.
Tsumago isn’t very big, and even with photo stops two or three hours will be more than enough to take back a lot of historic memories with you. I stayed slightly longer as I had lunch here before I went to my next stop – Magome juku. This is the next post town along this ancient Nakasendo route and the star of my next post. Stay tuned.