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During the Edo period, Nakatsugawa was the 45th post town along the historic Nakasendo road which served as the connection between Edo (modern Tokyo) and Kyoto. The trip from Kyoto to Tokyo was no easy feat. A trip that today can take as little as 3 hours thanks to the super fast Shinkansen, would have taken travelers up to 20 days to complete during the Edo period. As a result, post towns began to spring up along the way to service tired travellers and provide them with food, entertainment, and a place to sleep. Today, we can experience the long and rich history of Japan’s post town thanks to the efforts of the local communities who have preserved the traditional architecture of these once vital way stations.
Things to do and see in Nakatsugawa-juku Post town:
Nakatsugawa-juku Post Town is a quick 10 minute walk from Nakatsugawa Station making it an extremely convenient place to visit. Once you arrive at Nakatsugawa Post town, there are a few places to check out. First is the Nakatsugawa Historical Museum which houses artifacts from Nakatsugawa’s rich history as well as information about the surrounding area. Next is Kamikawa-ya Honten (closed on Wednesdays) which is a traditional Japanese sweets shop that makes a variety of sweets using chestnuts. These snacks are not only delicious but also visually pleasing, like tiny edible works of art. I had the chance to buy a few of these sweets and I was not disappointed. Sadly, since I cannot read Japanese, I can’t tell you exactly what type of sweet I had but I can tell you that they will satisfy the sweet tooth of anyone who is lucky enough to try them. The center was filled with a chestnut paste surrounded in a slightly chewy persimmon layer.
There’s also the Hazama Sake Brewery which has been making sake in the area for over three centuries. And although the brewery itself is not open to the public, you can still visit the shop and purchase some traditional Japanese Sake. The Hazama Sake Brewery is easy to spot, just look for the building with a stack of artfully decorated sake barrels, the same type of barrel that has been used to make sake for generations. There are also a number of shops and historical buildings in the area. Buildings with historical importance will have a small information board that will tell you more about the building.
Important Information About Visiting Nakatsugawa Post Town in Winter:
I had the opportunity to visit Nakatsugawa towards the end of December and although I’m definitely a fan of the beautiful winter landscape that comes with this time of year, it’s also important to note that winter isn’t a very popular time of year for tourism in this area. Especially as you get closer to the New Year, a lot of the shops and attractions that would normally be open for business will be closed. For example the Nakatsugawa Historical Museum is closed from December 26th to January 6th.
Nakatsugawa Post Town is very easy to get to from JR Nakatsugawa Station (perfect if you have the JR Pass). Once you exit the ticket gates, go right opposite the Nakatsugawa Tourist Information Centre. Continue down the street until you reach a small river, then turn left. If you continue to follow the river you will arrive at a color coded street which marks the Nakasendo Road. Continue to the right to reach Nakatsugawa Post Town. (Visit the Nakatsugawa Tourist Centre for maps and other information).
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