Another one of Tokyo`s many fabulous museums is the, “Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum”. Located less than an hour from Shinjuku, this museum allows you look into several periods of not only Japanese architectural history, but Japanese daily life. The museum has so many different buildings – from an Okinawan elevated granary through to buildings built in the Tokugawa period and used up until recent times. There are also buildings built in the pre-war period and there is even a street typical of what you would have seen in Tokyo in years gone by. It`s a wonderful place to walk around on an sunny day, surrounded by all the beautiful buildings, Kogaeni park and of course, history.
The museum was established in 1993 and is rather similar in style to the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum. They are real houses, not replicas. Everything had real people live in it, or work in it. You can walk around and enter everything on display (a few areas are off limits though). The main difference between the museums is that the land that this museum is built on is all flat, absolutely no hills to navigate. And as it is fairly large, so you could probably spend the whole day there if you wanted to see everything in its entirety.
What kind of buildings are at the museum? There are just so many. Ordinary houses both the rich and middle-class lived in. There`s photo studio, a a florist, a fire lookout post, a palace (you walked through it to enter the museum), a gate from a clan mansion, mausoleum and of course a whole lot more. The best thing about it is that you can get a real sense of what life was like in earlier times, as many of the structures have old telephones, furniture, a buddhist family altar tucked up into a corner, farm tools etc, many things that you would expect to see in a Japanese house.
Many of the buildings there have great historical value. One of them, is the house that belonged to Korekiyo Takahashi, an important government official during pre-war Japan. He was assassinated in it by a soldier during a coup attempt to topple the government of the time. One of my favourites is the mausoleum of Lady Ofuri, which was built in 1652. It is a beautiful building, covered in brilliantly coloured wood carvings.
The museum will give you some real insight into Japanese architecture, how buildings have developed over the years and, how they were influenced by overseas designers. One of the really interesting houses that shows the changing of ideas is the house of Sakae Okawa. It was built in 1925 after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 when many people left the inner city area for suburban areas. The design is the, “living room-centered style”, that was developed in the late Taisho era. This house displays the thinking of the time, more value was placed on spending time with the family rather than hosting guests. Walking into some of these homes, you might easily think that similarly designed houses could be found in any, “western”, country.
There is also a shopping street based on what was found in the early Showa period (1926-1989). It has a lot there that you can not only walk around, but also enter. There is a big bath house, a traditional inn, a soba shop (that is you can eat it), a florist, a soy sauce shop and lots more. And the shopping street isn`t just a staid old museum that you walk around and look at. Some of the shops even have staff in them making things or playing games that might have been found in early twentieth century Japan. The street could probably be used as a movie set!
But the most amazing thing is that many of these houses were dismantled, put in storage (in some cases for many, many years) and finally reassembled on the site for public view. Some parts of the houses, such as fragile light fittings that were either lost, broken, or destroyed have been recreated in the original style. So much time and effort has gone into recreating these structures for us to see.
The Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum is a great place to see in Tokyo. If you are looking for something that is regarded as a, “must see”, the Architectural museum has to be on that list. It`s not so far from the center of the city, it`s one of the most beautiful museums around and it is very inexpensive. It can give you a whole new perspective on the country. Most stuff in the museum is fairly well explained in English as well, so there no need to worry about not being able to read Japanese.
You can see the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum`s website here.
Access to the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum
There are several ways to get there. This is what we think is the easiest way to get there:
The train station it is closest to is Musashi-Koganei, which is on the Chou line (about 25 to 30 minutes west of Shinjuku). When you get to Musashi-Koganei station go down the stairs and leave the station via the north exit, you`ll have a choice of buses to use.
One is to use Kanto bus, from platform number four. Once on the bus it`s roughly five minutes to the museum. The stop you need to get off at is Edo-Tokyo Tatemono-en (in Japanese, “江戸東京たてもの園前”), and it is about a three minute walk from there.
The other is to use Seibu bus. They have two buses services that go through, from platforms two and three. Get off either bus at Kogaeni-koen nishi-guchi (in Japanese, “小金井公園西口”) and it is about a five minute walk to the museum.
Please remember that in both cases the buses pass by the museum, they don`t terminate there. Luckily, most buses on their display panels, use both Japanese and English. We have a Google map here to give you an idea of the area:
View Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in a larger map
Alternatively, you could always walk there. That would take about thirty minutes.
Between April and September the museum is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm.
From October to March the museum is open from 9:30am to 4:30am.
It is closed every Monday, unless it is a national holiday then it will be closed the following day.
The cost of admission is four hundred yen.
A couple of things to be aware of
Even though it is a museum, please remember that you will be going into Japanese houses. In all of the residential buildings, you`ll need to take your shoes off before entering. And as there are many original artifacts in the houses such as pictures etc, please be careful of touching things.