It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with ち (chi) and we looked at Chichibu (秩父). This week we are looking at things beginning with つ (tsu). A big thank you to everyone who joined in with suggestions this week (I know ‘tsu’ was a particularly tough one!):
Japan Australia suggested Tsu (津 / a city in Mie), tsukimi (月見 / moon viewing), Tsukiji Shijo (築地市場 / Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo), and Tsumago-juku (妻籠宿 / a post town in Nagano Prefecture); lovelycomplex22 also suggested Tsukiji; Sophienokatana suggested Tsukiji too, and Tsugumi Ohba (大場 つぐみ / a manga writer, best known for Death Note); and UK Seikatsu suggested Tsukiji Shijo, Tsukishima (月島 / a place in Chuo, Tokyo), tsukudani (佃煮 / small seafood, meat or seaweed that has been simmered in soy sauce and mirin), Tsunoda Hiro (つのだひろ / a drummer and singer), Tsunoda Jiro (つのだじろう / a manga artist), Tsugaru (津軽 / a city in Aomori), and Tsugaru-jamisen (津軽三味線 / the Japanese traditional three strings guitar).
Some great ideas there, but this week I have decided to write about just one topic…
Tsumago (or Tsumago-juku, to give it its full name) is a post town which is part of the old Nakasendo (中山道) - one of the five routes of the Edo period (1603 – 1868), and one of the two that connected Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. Tsumago is usually coupled with another post town from the Nakasendo – Magome-juku (馬籠宿), in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県). These two towns are often put together because there’s a lovely walk you can do between them. The gentle hike is just under 8km long, and takes you along a scenic, well-kept path between the two preserved towns.
I’ve been to Magome, but unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to visit Tsumago. I’d love to go back some day and do the hike between the two towns – I bet I’d take hundreds of photos!
Tsumago is in Nagano Prefecture (長野県), and is roughly in the middle between Tokyo and Kyoto, making it an ideal place for a stop off when you’re travelling across Honshu. The town has been restored to the way it would have looked during the Edo period, and in 1976 the town was designated by the Japanese government as a ‘Nationally-designated Architectural Preservation Site’.
Throughout the year, and especially during spring and autumn, Tsumago is very popular with tourists both Japanese and foreign. Tsumago is not just a tourist attraction though – the houses are inhabited and the shops (many of them selling good-quality souvenirs) are all active businesses. There are a number of traditional inns in Tsumago, so you can even enjoy staying there over night.
Although Tsumago is mainly a place in which to wander around and soak up the atmosphere, you can also find out about the area at the Nagiso Museum of History (歴史資料館). The museum contains information about the preservation of the houses, and you can see how rooms would have looked. Here’s an example of a living room and cooking area:
I think Tsumago would be a really interesting place to explore, and it would be easy to lose yourself in the past and imagine how life would have been during the Edo period. As I’ve mentioned previously, I would love to walk the Tokaido (東海道) route, which is also one of the Edo Five Routes. I also think walking the Nakasendo would be fascinating, although the Tsumago and Magome portion of the route is the most well-preserved part and much of the rest of the route wouldn’t be walkable in the same way. Still, it would be interesting to see how things look today and to see how much of the route is accessible.
Next week we’ll start with て (te), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with て. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese words.
I look forward to hearing your suggestions! (*^_^)v