One of my favorite places that I have visited so far has been the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. (Not to be confused with the ‘Edo-Tokyo Museum’ which I wrote about in my “Teeny Tiny Tokyo” post.) There are really two reasons why I liked it so much. The first was the staff. The staff there is pretty amazing. Almost all of them are volunteers so they’re there because they love it. They love sharing information about Japan and it’s history with the visitors. And they have a lot of knowledge. I was happily surprised with how many of them spoke English as well (I never have the expectation that people should speak English because I try not to be an arrogant asshole). One lady, who I would guess was in her 50’s, actually went to Canada for two years to study English just so she could do her volunteer job better! Now that’s dedication. Even the volunteers who didn’t speak English were able to communicate things with out speaking through demonstrations and gesture. One old guy even had me sit by the fire with him while he taught me a couple different origami designs. So whether there was verbal or non-verbal communication, every single person there was friendly and kind.
The second thing that is great about this museum is that it doesn’t feel like a museum. It’s not just something that you walk thru and look at, you actually interact with it by going into the different places. Each of the buildings you can go inside of. Of course you have to take your shoes off at most of the places (so wear the appropriate footwear), but unless there is a sign that says “don’t touch” or “don’t enter”, you can. You can look in the closet, you can sit on chair…you can get a real feel for what life was like.
The goal of the museum is to preserve valuable, historic buildings. Because of fires, floods, earthquakes, and war throughout the years, too much of the country’s cultural heritage was eroding away. So in 1993, The Tokyo government started the museum which now relocates and restores these buildings for exhibition. This provides current and future generations with the ability to study and experience scenes of daily life from Edo period to post World War II.
Overall there are 25 buildings to explore and also several “outdoor exhibits” to check out. It was only about $4 to enter and I spent about 4 hours there, so I think that a steal. I happened to be there on a weekday when it was cloudy and with light rain and it was pretty empty, maybe like only 20 other people. I can imagine that on a weekend day with good weather it could be quite crowded, but it is such a cool place that I recommend just going whenever you can. You get to see and experience parts of Japanese history in a way that no other museum I’ve been to can parallel.