Tokyo: Edo Tokyo Museum

Because of all the rain we had to find ways to explore the city, while staying dry. So we figured, we should go and see one of the museums. We consulted our guide and quickly realised that the Edo Tokyo Museum is the most interesting one. So off we went.

From the outside, the museum looks a little ugly. The architecture is definitely unique. It is clunky, lots of grey concrete on stilt legs. It has lots of edges and wedges and apparently it is modelled after an old storehouse in the kurazukuri style. But then the red escalator (like in the Centre Pompidou) sticks out like a sore thumb. There is a viewing platform on one of the higher levels, but as it was raining too much, it was closed. Not sure what we would have seen there.

The museum is huge. We spent two hours just in the permanent exhibition. But then it’s aim is huge too: The aim of the museum is to show what Tokyo was like in the past, starting from the Edo period, when Ieyasu Tokugawa entered what was a small fishing village, and going up to present day. So there is lots to show – and the exhibits focus on the politics, culture and lifestyle experienced by Tokyoites over the city’s 400-year history.

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What makes the Edo-Tokyo Museum one of Tokyo’s best museums? The original artifacts and replicas of Edo-era buildings and landmarks, along with several large-scale models. It starts on the sixth floor with the replica of the famous Nihonbashi (Nihon Bridge), which was leading into Edo, and the Nakamura-za kabuki theatre.

Edo Tokyo Museum 1

The bridge is not only nice to look at and to cross, in fact it separates the museum into two zones, Edo and Tokyo. In the Edo zone are swords, armours, kimonos, lots of models to show harbour scenes, the inside of typical houses but also how ghost scenes are being played in the theatre. There are some incredibly detailed dioramas with binoculars available for you to see even the smallest items in them.

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The Tokyo zone starts with the early twentieth century and covers the modernisation, the lives of the working class, the air raids of the second world war, as well as the Olympic Games in 1964.

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Useful info:

  • The Edo Tokyo Museum is in Ryogoku and easy to reach with public transport. Just use the JR or subway to the Ryogoku station and leave via the A3 or A4 exits
  • Opening times are from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Friday with longer opening hours on Saturday (until 7:30 p.m). The museum is closed on Mondays
  • Admission is 600 Yen for adults, 300 Yen for seniors/children for the permanent exhibition
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