Edo-Tokyo Open-air Architectural Museum

By on April 4, 2008

Photo © Elena Derevstova

The main branch of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which tells the story of Tokyo’s history, is located downtown in Ryogoku. The Architectural Museum was added in Koganei Park in West Tokyo in 1993. Real buildings of historical and cultural importance have been moved here and lovingly restored to their original condition.

When I told my elementary-school age daughters where we were going, they were less than enthusiastic at first. “A museum about buildings?” You can imagine the tone–one that imparts both disbelief and utter boredom. Thankfully, this museum has a trick up its sleeve! As the name indicates, nearly everything is in an open-air setting. You are free to wander at your own pace, stopping to enter any buildings that catch your attention. Older children will be interested in the details of how people used to live, while toddlers can run around in the spacious grounds until their heart’s content.

Many of the buildings were once family homes, a mixture of urban and rural dwellings covering a variety of periods. There is also a collection of old shops, recreating a shitamachi (downtown) scene from yesteryear, complete with authentic tools and fittings. This is the part which my girls enjoyed the most. Among the building are a sento (public bathhouse), a police box and a stationery shop. On weekends, children can try out old-fashioned playthings in the town square, such as koma (tops) and takeuma (stilts). On some Sundays, volunteers also come in to teach children origami, seal-making (with modeling clay) and other traditional crafts.

In addition to the permanent displays, a changing indoor exhibit in the Visitor’s Center introduces different aspects of Japanese history. When we visited, the exhibit revealed the historical changes in Japanese family living—moving from tatami-style to eating at the Western-style kitchen table.

Your family won’t go hungry, with both a sit-down noodle shop and casual stalls selling a variety of kid-pleasing foods in the East Zone, by the shitamachi area. There is also a gift shop in the Visitor’s Center, featuring educational and novelty items that would make unique presents for family and friends overseas.

As my girls ran around, making their origami pinwheels flutter in the early spring breeze, I realized that pleasures from days gone by are not completely lost on today’s children. When we got home, my son, who had been at a sporting event, listened rather enviously as his sisters recounted their day. It seems as though another family visit may be in order soon.

Handy Hints: How long it takes to get round the Architectural Museum depends on the ages and interests of your children. Two hours would be the minimum, but history buffs could easily spend the best part of a day here. If there is still time after exploring the museum, then head out into Koganei Park. A five minute-walk from the entrance to the museum is the children’s playground, and it is a very fine one at that. Children up to middle-school age will find enough there to keep them occupied. Just be sure to keep tabs on your little ones, as is it easy to lose your child among the expanse of play equipment. Bicycles may also be hired at the Cycling Center adjacent to the playground.

Edo-Tokyo Open-air Architectural Museum (Edo-Tokyo Tatemono En)
3-7-1 Sakura-cho, Koganei (inside Koganei Park).
Tel: 042-388-3300

Open daily 09:30-17:30 (16:30 – Oct. to Mar.)
Closed Mon., unless public holiday.

• Adult (General): ¥400
• Elderly (65~ years old): ¥200
• University students: ¥320
• High school students: ¥20
• Junior high school stud. outside Tokyo: ¥200
• Junior high school stud. in Tokyo, Elementary school and preschool children: ¥0


From JR Musashi-Koganei Sta. (Chuo Line), take a bus from Stop 2 or 3, and get off at the Kogaeni-Koen Nishiguchi stop (6-mins ride). Parking available in the Koganei Park lot.

www.tatemonoen.jp (Japanese) 

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