Tsumago Honjin and Waki-honjin
The Honjin and Waki-honjin were luxurious buildings constructed along the post towns of the Nakasendo highway specifically for government officials that were travelling the route. Tsumago is home to an impressive Honjin and Waki-honjin that have been preserved and restored both housing museums that are collectively known as the Nagiso-machi Museum.
Tsumago’s Waki-honjin, which also goes by its original name of Okuya, played an important role back in the Edo period when Tsumago was a major stop along the Nakasendo highway. Though many of the travellers making the journey between Edo (present day Tokyo) and Kyoto were normal people such as traders, the Honjin and Waki-honjin were used to put up the daimyo, or feudal lords, with Emperor Meiji himself once taking a visit in 1880 when he escorted Princess Kazunomiya to Kyoto for an arranged marriage. Reflecting its surrounding nature, the Waki-honjin was constructed from cypress trees with the interior filled with high quality tatami mats.
While the Waki-honjin was less important than the Honjin and used as a secondary inn, today it is the most impressive of the two not only for housing the largest collection of historical displays but also thanks to the positioning of the beams in the ceiling where the sun shines through in the afternoon creating a mystical atmosphere. For just 600 yen you can visit the two museums inside the Waki-honjin which comprise several different rooms housing everything from 200-year-old historical documents and typical Edo period clothing to a high class lavatory designed specifically for the emperor.
The restored Tsumago-juku Honjin was constructed for the first time in 1601 to act as one of the principal stopovers in the Kiso Valley for daimyo and other important people taking the Nakasendo route. As a result, the Honjin was built lavishly covering two buildings made up of ostentatious rooms, bathrooms, and reading platforms. The Shimazaki family were in charge of the Honjin for many years and became an important family themselves when the Honjin manager’s son, Toson Shimazaki, rose to fame as an author who has a whole museum dedicated to him in the neighbouring town of Magome.
The Honjin’s traditional irori fireplace was one of the centrepieces of the inn. The sunken hearth heated up the draughty open spaces while also brewing up tea and cooking up snacks for its guests. The museum in the Honjin is smaller than its counterpart with an adult’s ticket costing just 300 yen to look around the replica rooms. However, combination tickets for the Nagiso-machi Museum (both the Honjin and Waki-honjin’s museums) are available for 700 yen with both buildings open to the public between 9am and 5pm.
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- Honjin (Tsumago Juku)
- Nagano Pref. Kisogunnagisomachi Aduma