Edo-Tokyo Museum

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1-4-1 Yokoami, Tokyo, Japan
Edo-Tokyo Museum - Model of a 17th century daimyo's residence, Edo Tokyo Museum
Edo-Tokyo Museum - Replica print shop, Edo Tokyo Museum
Edo-Tokyo Museum - Entrance to the Edo Tokyo Museum
Edo-Tokyo Museum - At the Edo Tokyo Museum
Edo-Tokyo Museum - At the Edo Tokyo Museum
Edo-Tokyo Museum - Model at the Edo Tokyo Museum
Edo-Tokyo Museum - Nihonbashi Bridge replica, Edo Tokyo Museum

Edo-Tokyo Museum Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
566 reviews
A fabulous museum! Oct 05, 2013
This modern museum, which opened in 1993 in a rather striking building, is devoted to the history of Tokyo from the Edo Period which started at the end of the 16th century) to the post World War Two reconstruction and recovery. Displays include original artefacts, models and large scale reconstructions. Admission costs just 600¥ which seems very good value for a museum of this quality, and your ticket is good for multiple admissions during the same day. You buy your ticket on the 3rd floor concourse of this dramatic modern building and then take the equally striking red escalator up to the 6th floor to begin your visit - the permanent exhibits are there and on the 5th floor below. Or you can enter on the ground floor, buy a ticket and go up in the lift.

From your first arrival in the main exhibition area, when you cross a replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge to reach the first Edo period displays, you know you are in a museum that takes pride not only in its collections but in their presentation and curation. This early 19th century bridge was the gateway from Edo to such places as Kyoto (to the west) and Nikko (to the north). The original was 51 metres in length of and 8 metres wide. This replica is of the same width as the original but half its length.

As we crossed the bridge we could see below us the replica Kabuki Theatre, or rather the entryway into the Nakamuraza Playhouse where Kabuki Theatre was often performed. On this occasion some museum staff were busy setting up some musical instruments here so we lingered on the bridge and eventually were able to hear the start of a lovely performance on the koto (a traditional Japanese instrument) and some kind of flute. I don’t know if these performances are programmed regularly but it may help to know that this was at 11.00 am on a Saturday. I made a short video of the koto player while we watched, and later the music followed us as we started to explore the rest of the exhibits in the Edo zone.

These included some very good models of Edo period buildings, both town houses and rich Samurai homes; a row of replica town houses from various periods; a fascinating display about wood-block printing (showing how each differently coloured layer of the image is built up one by one); and lots of artefacts from the time. There are also some child-focused fun exhibits of replica items that you can interact with, e.g. climbing into a rickshaw or palanquin (type of sedan chair), or lifting a matoi (like a legion’s standard) to feel its weight.

The Tokyo zone which portrays the city’s more recent history is also very well done, although by the time we reached it jet-lag was kicking in (this was our first full day in Japan and my body was screaming at me that it was now 2.00 am and I really should be in bed and asleep!) Nevertheless I was interested to see how European influences gradually crept into building design and shocked to see the devastation caused by the Tokyo fire bomb raids of World War Two. I was in this area when a guide was giving some American tourists a tour and I stopped to eavesdrop on what he was telling them – apparently more people died in these raids and in the fires they caused than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a result of the atom bombs – horrific. More positively, a small section near the end describes how Tokyo recovered and rebuilt, and how Japan as a whole embraced a technological revolution that led to its current strong position in the world economy. It was fun to see some of the earliest examples of fridges, vacuum cleaners etc!

This is a fabulous museum with something for everyone, and is a pleasure to visit. Everything is arranged and displayed in a very effective and attractive way, and there is sufficient signage in English to ensure you get a lot out of your visit (although if you prefer you also get an English-speaking volunteer guide to show you around - for free!) Photography is allowed in the permanent exhibitions area although not for special exhibitions, and there are clear signs indicating where it is permitted to use flash (quite a lot of places).

Once we had seen as much as we could take in we went back to the ground floor and got coffee and a bite to eat in the coffee shop there – a coffee plus a cake “set” for 650¥ (I chose ice cream with rice dumplings and a sweet bean sauce, and Chris had pancakes with chestnut puree). There is also a restaurant serving Western (mainly Italian) food, and several shops with good quality items. All in all we spent several hours here, and if you were to look at every item you easily make that the best part of a day. It's a great place to come early in your visit to Tokyo to get a useful introduction to the city's history that will give context to the rest of your sightseeing.

I note on the website that the museum is currently closed for renovation until March 31, 2018. It’s possible therefore that some of my description above won’t reflect any changes made; however, I remain confident that this will remain a museum well worth visiting.
Koto player at the Edo Tokyo Museum
Replica print shop, Edo Tokyo Muse…
Entrance to the Edo Tokyo Museum
Model of a 17th century daimyo's r…
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