Date: 3rd July 2018
I was supposed to hike up to Mt. Takagari from the Omachi Alpine Museum, but cancelled the plan as the clouds looks dark from afar. I was probably wrong about the rain as it was a definitely hot and clear day. Walking back from the Omachi Alpine Museum to the Shinano-Omachi Station, I stopped by the Chojiya Salt Road Museum (塩の道ちょうじや). The staffs were friendly to explain a thing or two about the museum to me and I was glad to know that pictures are okay here!
So lets learn a bit about the Salt Road or Shio-no-Michi (塩の道), or more specifically the Chikuni Kaido (千国街道). This road was an important road used for the transportation of salt and seafood from Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture on the coast of the Sea of Japan to Shinano Province (the old province name which is now the Nagano prefecture) during the Edo period. One of the stations on this road was the Omachi-juku (大町宿), and thus like many other road stations, the Omachi town thrived as a lodging town.
In 1889, many buildings in this area perished in fire, so this museum which was a salt dealer’s residence is a building reconstructed in 1890. It was the residence of the Hirabayashi family, whose head was a village leader and a salt merchant.
In the main building where you first enter, on the first floor displays possessions of the Hirabayashi family and dolls depicting the scene of a salt merchant. The second floor displays materials used for the transportation of salt and marine products on the Chikuni Kaido.
After that, you will see three rooms – Bunko-gura displaying dishes and tools, Tsukemono-gura the room used for pickling, and Shio-gura the storage of salt.
At the end of the residence you will find the Yabusame Hall, introducing the Nyakuichioji Jinja Reisai, a festival held every summer at the stated shrine in Omachi and the Kodomo Yabusame (a Shinto ritual where children shoot arrows at targets while riding horses). If you have time, you can walk to the shrine which is located roughly 20 minutes, 1.5km away from the museum.
Back in the main building, you can also rest and have a drink and some desserts. I had this apple amazake (sweet sake which is low in alcohol) milkshake priced at 450 yen.
I did not ask the staffs, but the pamphlet given showed that you can experience”life from the old days” here. Listed here are those experiences available:
- Daily life – sewing, laundering, cleaning, cooking mochi over charcoal fire
- Preparing matcha with sweets (1,000 yen)
- Sampling nihonshu from Omachi’s three distilleries (1,300 yen)
- Wearing traditional clothes (2,000 yen for 60 minutes) like the bokka costume (bokka is the term used for the men carrying the load) or a ninja costume
- Wearing yukata (3,000 yen)
- Wearing shomin no kimono, dress like a townsman from the old days (3,500 yen for 90 minutes)
Admission fee: 500 yen
- May-Oct: 09:00 – 17:00 (Last admission 16:30)
- Nov-Apr: 09:00 – 16:30 (Last admission 16:00)
- May-Oct: Every 3rd and 4th Wednesday
- Nov-Apr: Wednesdays and New Year’s Holiday Season
The Chojiya Salt Road Museum is just a 6-mins, 500m walk from Shinano-Omachi Station.
How to get to Shinano-Omachi Station:
- From Matsumoto Station, take the JR Oito Line (1 hour, 670 yen)
- From Itoigawa Station, take the JR Oito Line (2 hours, 1320 yen)
- From Nagano Station, take the Alpico bus (1 hour 10 minutes, 2100 yen)