Kumeya is in Komoro City, Nagano Prefecture. The city -- in highlands, blessed with rich nature --functioned as a post town on the Hokkoku Kaido Road during the Edo Era (1603-1868) and accommodated processions of daimyo, or feudal lords, on their sankin koutai, or alternate attendance travels from their home domains to Edo – today’s Tokyo.
The original building of Kumeya was established in the late of Edo Era as wakihonjin, the second highest ranking accommodation after honjin, for the daimyo processions that rested in town. Still now, the building demonstrates the architectural style of those days.
The main building facing the Hokkoku Kaido Road is characterized by low eaves with a broad tiled roof. There are three different entrances in accordance with status of the guest. The entrance on the left side with a gabled roof and a step was for the highest ranking guests. Other guests used the entrance in the middle with a sloping roof and a signboard, or the wide one on the right-hand side. Each entrance also led into different rooms for different ranks.
Behind the main building, there is a courtyard surrounded by corridors covered with tatami mats. The corridors go into an annex which has rooms of the highest rank in the shoin-zukuri style. This style is characterized with a tokonoma alcove and staggered shelves on the wall, and is known as the basis of today’s traditional Japanese rooms. There is a wonderful transom exhibiting a Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove carving in one of the rooms. --At dusk, when interior orange lights are lit, the whole of Kumeya is enveloped in an atmosphere of traditional inns of the past.
Hokkoku Kaido Road, totaling a length of about 140km, branched off from Nakasendo Road at Oiwake Post Town and led onto Takada Post Town in Echigo (a part of Niigata Prefecture today). Hokkoku Kaido Road was known as a transportation route for salt and rice from Echigo as well as a pilgrimage route to Zenkoji Temple. When the mining of gold and silver started at Sado in Echigo in the early Edo Period, the road became even more important to transport these staples to Edo.
After the systematization of sankin koutai, or alternate attendance, by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Hokkoku Kaido Road came to flourish with the comings and goings of the processions of daimyo, or feudal lords. These processions came from domains around the Sea of Japan such as Kaga (Ishikawa Prefecture and part of Toyama Prefecture today) and Takada (a part of Niigata Prefecture today). The numbers were often huge - the processions of Kaga sometimes numbered 5,000 people in all. Remaining wooden guest name plates in Kumeya actually show several names of retainers for the Kaga daimyo.
At post towns on the roads, honjin and wakihonjin were constructed for accommodating people with high social ranks such as samurai and courtiers. Honjin, the highest ranking inn, were exclusively for daimyo and the imperial family, while wakihonjin were for samurai, court nobles, other officers, and ordinary citizens when available. Kumeya was one of those wakihonjin.
Around Kumeya, you can enjoy visiting the sites of the former Komoro Post Town including relocated and rebuilt honjin and tonyaba where logistic work such as the management of transportation and luggage was carried out.
Komoro Castle has been selected as one of Japan’s Top 100 Castles. It is said to be the only anajiro (where a castle is located geographically below its town) in Japan. Both the castle’s 400-year-old otemon, the main gate, and sannomon, the third gate, are designated as important national cultural properties, and the original nozurazumi stone walls provide a nostalgic atmosphere.
At the beginning of the Meiji Era (1868～1912), the castle compound was converted to a park, known as Kaikoen Park. This scenic park has been designated as one of Japan's Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots and has many touriststhroughout spring and autumn.
Komoro Castle and Castle Town were established in the early Edo Era together with the development of the Hokkoku Kaido Road. Like other castle towns in Japan, Hokkoku Kaido Road and the post town were close to the castle, while temples were established further afield.