The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is one of those not so widely-known gems hiding in away in the outskirts of Tokyo. For anyone with an interest in Japan, Japanese history, house construction – it is a great place to go! This place is like walking into a samurai movie set. If you have ever seen a samurai movie, you`ll be right at home.
The Museum was opened in 1967 as an antique outdoor museum that would preserve rapidly disappearing Japanese traditional houses for future generations. And it has fulfilled this role admirably. Currently there are 25 buildings, including a water mill, boathouse, storehouse, and a Kabuki stage as well as a variety of traditional houses from Eastern Japan . Of those twenty-five, eighteen have been designated as important national/ prefectural cultural assets. As well as the buildings there are other related items and materials that were found in Japan in earlier times.
The great thing about this museum is that it not only shows these old places, but it also explains why they developed like they did. So you can learn about things like the, “gassho zukuri”, which is a steeply sloped roof that prevents it from collapsing under the weight of snow. So, each area in Japan modified their dwellings to suit their environment. As you walk through the museum, you`ll see all of this clearly explained (written in both Japanese and English). All of the houses that were relocated to the Japanese Open-Air Folk House Museum were carefully taken apart then moved to the museum and then carefully reconstructed. So these houses are the real McCoy, nothing has been up for the tourists.
It really is a cool place. Going to the museum is really like going back in time. All of the old farming equipment, all the kitchen utensils, baths and toilets. If you`ve ever seen a samurai, that is exactly what it is like. So in some of the buildings you`ll see people (real people) sitting around enjoying their lunch with a hot cup of tea. It such an interesting place. Just make sure to pop into the main exhibition hall behind the reception to get a quick introduction to the basics of traditional Japanese house construction.
Walking around the whole place, will probably take at least three hours. And it isn`t only the static exhibits. There are lot of special exhibits throughout the year. The museum even has a kabuki stage which hosts a play ever year (limited to 400 people). There are so many special events through the year, so have a look at the museum`s homepage for further information.
If there is one thing inconvenient about the museum, is that it is quite hilly. Some of the hills are a little sleep and have only earth trails. If you go there after a rainy day, be careful as some of the trails will be very slippery.
There are English tours guides available, but you need to fill out the form (here) and fax it to them (the number is 044-934-8652). To get any further information about their museum, you can see its English website here.
The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is a great place to visit. It has a lot of see and do. For anyone with an interest in Japan and its history, it should be on their “must visit” list.
Access to the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum
The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is located near Mukougaoka-Yuen station, Kanagawa prefecture (right next to Tokyo). Mukougaoka-Yuen is on the Odakyu line. From Shinjuku, by express train, it takes a little over twenty minutes and costs 240 yen. From the station leave via the south exit. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to the museum. Here is a Google map to show you the way:
View The road to the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum in a larger map
The opening times for the museum vary. From March to October it is open from 9:30 to 5pm (with last admittance at 4:30). From November to February it is open from 9:30am to 4:30pm (with last admittance at 4pm). It is closed on Mondays, but open on public holidays. For the New Year period, it is closed from December 29 to January 3.
General admission for adults is 500 yen.
Best time to go
Being located in the hills, it would probably be best not to go during the summer months as it can get quite hot. My pick would be autumn, when the trees should be at their colourful best. And if you go in winter, make sure to wear something warm as it will get pretty cold.