by Bryce Marley-Jarrett
Today we are visiting the ward of Ryogoku in Tokyo. The home of many things, including Sumo in Tokyo, today we are visiting one of the most impressive and biggest museums in Tokyo: the fascinating Edo-Tokyo Museum.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum opened in 1993 in the Tokyo ward of Ryogoku, this museum is the pinnacle of Tokyo history museums in the region. The Edo-Tokyo Museum takes you through the birth of the Edo period in Japan, and birth of “Tokyo” (Fun fact - Edo was the name of Tokyo before it was renamed in the Meiji period). The museum takes you through the Edo period, with life size reproductions of buildings, theatres, bridges, vehicles and more. As well as reproductions to give you a visual of a time past, they also have amazing artifacts on display from the Edo period that are priceless.
The museum has a massive presence in the ward, being one of the most uniquely designed buildings in Tokyo and its massive footprint, it sits like a mountain over the Ryogoku Station, in that it is what your eye is drawn to as soon as you get off the train, making it quite easy to get to, too! Although at first sight the building looks very modern, almost futuristic (which is funny for a museum all about Tokyo’s origins), the design is actually modelled of a old style of building in Japan, found in its birthplace of Kawagoe<link>.
Once entering the museum you will find yourself on the ground floor, with restaurants, cafes, and a small shops.
Just past the temporary exhibit entrance is where you will pick up your admission ticket, as well as an English audio guide if you would like more information than just the standard information boards (Japlanning tip: the audio guides are well worth their value as the English information boards are very minimal in content, so fork out for the audio guide).
Okay it’s onto the main hall!
To get to the main hall, you need to take an elevator up to the 6th floor of the mammoth structure, as the main exhibition covers the 6th and 5th floors. You might think this is odd, but once you come out of the elevators you will see why: the show space is massive.
Up on the sixth floor is where you start your wandering of the museum, it is wide and has a lot going on, but don’t worry about getting lost. Before you start, just to your right from the elevators, you will see a visitor’s desk. Here you can sign up to get your own English speaking guide for free to show you around and explain the entire museum! This is the most amazing feature I have ever found at a museum for free! The volunteers who guide you through speak fantastic English and are knowledgable and friendly.
Japlanning recommends taking advantage of this service.
You start your journey into the Edo period in a very grand way, over a replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge, which was the original bridge into Edo. From here on the 6th floor and through to the first half of the 5th floor, you are in the Edo zone of the museum, exploring the beginnings of what would eventually become Tokyo.
As you cross the bridge you start with an in-depth looking into the politics of the Edo period, and move through the times and past exhibits portraying the lifestyle, culture, and economics of the times.
You will see some spectacular scale models of what Edo looked like, read and view breathtaking silk screen paintings telling the story of Edo, as well as artifacts of everyday items, such as kimonos, swords and more used back then. One of Japlanning’s favourite areas was the full size reproduction of an Edo period printers and the beautiful works created.
The Edo Zone ends by going through the exhibit on Geishas, and coming out you will be in front of the full-sized replica of the Nakamura Theatre. This gorgeous reproduction is used for performances occasionally and has seating in front to watch, as well as to rest and take in the beautiful design.
As you step past the theatre, you are entering the Tokyo Zone of the museum. Here marks the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the Tokyo era.
You are faced with a full sized reproduction of the Choya Newspaper Publishing Co. Building from the time, and from the architecture of the building, you can see a running theme of the birth of Tokyo, the influences of European and American styles are clear, and gives a nice opening to what is a theme of the start of the Tokyo Era: the introduction of western influences.
Throughout this zone you will see the westernization of Tokyo during the Meiji era of Japan, the Industrial revolution and its impact on Japan, as well as some more models and dioramas showing the advances in building and as well as daily conveniences from the Edo times to Meiji.
All major events are covered too, with interactive models showing how large the Great Kanto Earthquake in the 1900’s was, to how WWII impacted Tokyo and the rebuilding that happened in the aftermath of the war.
As you end your tour around the exhibits you come to the “Let’s Experience Gallery” and interactive display of many Edo daily items for you to get a feel of how the Japanese lived back in the Edo Era, this is a fun one for the kids!
Now you may be thinking that such a large museum would be confusing to navigate, the museum has great directions on the floor that you can follow to go through the whole museum in chronological order and see the progression through history.
- Adults - 600¥
- Students - 300¥
- Seniors - 300¥
Special temporary exhibits require an extra admission fee.
- Tuesday - Friday and Sundays - 9:30am-5:30pm
- Saturdays - 9:30am - 7:30pm
- Closed on Mondays
Admission is accepted up to 30 mins prior to closing
NOTE: The Edo-Tokyo Museum will be closed from December 1, 2014 until March 27, 2015 for refurbishment. However the special exhibition "Explore! Experience! Edo-Tokyo" will be held from December 1, 2014 until March 8, 2015 at the special exhibition gallery of the 1st floor in the museum.
How to get there
Take the JR Sobu Line and get off at Ryogoku. The museum is 3 minutes walk from the station’s West Exit, or 7 minutes from the East Exit.
Take the Oedo Line and get off at Ryogoku (In front of Edo Tokyo Museum). The museum is 1 minute walk from the station’s “A3”, ”A4” Exit.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum is a fantastic look at the deep history of Tokyo and the rise of the Edo period, and getting an up close look at how people lived. With amazing life-sized reproductions, and rare artifacts, you will be enthralled for hours wandering from the birth of Edo to the Tokyo of today.
Japlanning definitely recommends making time to check out this special museum, especially if you are a history buff.