The good thing about our apartment in Tokyo was that it had several interesting places within a walking distance. And Edo-Tokyo Museum – a really impressive museum! – was one of them.
After a lazy and quiet morning, we went to visit it, enjoying, as always, the views on the road.
The museum is incredible and I think should be on everyone’s “must see” list when visiting Tokyo. It gives a great overview on the history of the city and the today’s society. It’s thought-provoking and encouraging to learn more about Japan. It creates an impressive image of a very advanced and well-organised society. It’s huge and covers a lot of aspects of Edo-Tokyo’s life. And it has all the information in English, not a standard in Japan, unfortunately.
The permanent exhibition covers 400 years of history of the city, since Tokugawa Ieyasu entered Edo, until modern times of Tokyo. It explains how the society was organised and has changed over the centuries. It shows the everyday life, customs, and cultural life.
At the entrance to the exhibition, there’s a life-sized replica of the Nihonbashi bridge which was leading into Edo. The museum is filled with life-scale models and miniature dioramas showing life scenes of the Edo period. It’s very interactive, but, which came as a surprise for us, not very hi-tech. There is a huge replica of a Nakamura-za Theatre as well as a more modern version of the building. There are plenty of information charts (way too many to read if you’re visiting with kids), graphs, illustrations, samples of clothing and lot more.
Dioramas are enormous and made with attention to details.
Visitors can enter a replica of a traditional palanquin. The only condition – please take off your shoes!
On the lower floor, we can look into traditional houses, school and workshops. There are also several things visitors can try for themselves, i.e. how to carry extremely heavy buckets used for transporting the content of people’s privies out of the town (boy, that job had to stink! Literally) or wave the standard of the firefighting unit (S liked especially this one).
There is also a special section dedicated to the theatre (inside the very Nakamura-za Theatre replica) showing, among others, a scene from a famous performance Sukeroku which was special for Edo people. The clothes are truly mesmerising!
There is also an option for a guided tour inside the theatre, one just has to ask about it at the voluntary guide desk. The last application, however, is at 15:00. We couldn’t take this tour as it was already too late, so I cannot say whether it’s worth a visit or not.
On the other side of the bridge, there’s the Tokio-era part of the exhibition. Since Rascals were quite tired already, we went fast through it. It concentrates on Tokio time showing the life and history of the city in the XX century.
There is information on the natural disasters (earthquake and the huge fire that followed) and its implications for the growth of the city, the cultural and sociological changes (i.e. the appearance of the salaryman), the new technologies (radio, cars), Tokyo during the wartime (a part of exhibition I preferred to skip because of N) and the life after war.
One of our favourite parts was the collection of old bikes and rickshaws in which visitors are allowed to take a seat.
There is also a typical house from around 50. which can be visited inside.
And after the visit, we took I think the longest escalator ever!
It was already late and we still needed to have (late) lunch so we decided to go to the Italian restaurant in the museum. After that, we went for a dessert and afternoon tea in an adjacent tea house. As always the choice was eased by the plastic replicas of the food. Everything looked so yummy…
… but turned out to be the weirdest and the tasteless dessert ever! I had some sweet pancakes with a red bean paste (yes, it’s what they eat there!) and Rascals’ dad had a weird tasteless jelly cover in some even weirder powder. But the tea was good :)