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Monday, February 11, 2019

Exploring Japan Vol. 16 - Edo Tokyo Museum

Last week we talked about going off the beaten path and exploring on your own.  This week I want to point you directly back to the main path. 


Well, see... Sometimes there are amazing things on the well traveled path that you shouldn't pass up.  Like that samurai suit above.  You can't tell easily from the picture, but that's actually for a child.  Where in the world would you find such a thing?

The Edo-Tokyo Museum.  If you look back at the previous installments of this blog, the majority of the entries have to do with the odd, the weird and the wonderful.  Let me be clear though, my family and I still enjoy some of the mainstream stuff as well.  One thing we definitely wanted to see was more about the history of Tokyo and the Edo-Tokyo Museum is arguably the best place in the entire country to get a crash course in Tokyo's history in roughly half a day.

For those that don't know, the city we call Tokyo was originally called Edo.  Thus, the name of the museum.  Inside you'll find a top notch, Smithsonian level collection that will walk you through the very beginnings of civilization in this area and bring you all the way up to the early 2000's.  

A massive undertaking such as that needs a massive building, right?  Well, this place has got you covered.  Inside you'll find life-sized recreations of famous bridges, theaters and more.  In fact, you walk across the bridge in the picture above when you enter the museum. 

There are elaborate dioramas that show the layouts of feudal lord palaces and towns.  You'll find interactive displays that allow you to feel what it was really like to ride like royalty through the town, or carry water.

There are whole sections on early printing in Japan with displays that show you the art and precision needed to get amazingly detailed prints like the one below.     

There are even reprints of news articles from the time, like this one documenting the first time an elephant was ever brought back to the country alive.

Some of our favorite exhibits showed how early theater effects were accomplished and there were also dioramas that came to life, showing what the city was like both during the daytime and at night.

Here's the thing that really stands out to me about this museum more than any other.  As we walked through the entrance to the main floor, we were approached by an elderly Japanese lady who began speaking to us in French.  We stopped her and explained that we didn't speak that language and were in fact American.  She said, "One moment" and then ran to get someone else.  

Another woman walked up and asked if we would like her to accompany us and explain the exhibits that did not have translations.  She was more than willing to go along with us, for however long we liked and would have answered any and all of our questions about any of the exhibits, and all of this was free of charge.  We actually declined simply because we'd only planned on spending a short time there and thought we might come back on another visit for a longer stay.  
As we wandered, we heard guides speaking to guests in French, Spanish, German and English.  

My favorite exhibit is hard to pin down because there are some seriously amazing things housed in the museum, but one of them would have to be this.

It looks like the paper model of a keep, but in fact it's a three dimensional blueprint created to show the builders the layout of every floor in detail.


So, if you are only going to be in Tokyo for a short time and may never get the chance to come back, I suggest spending at least half a day visiting the Edo Tokyo Museum.  You'll find a new appreciation for city itself and gain a fresh perspective on just how far it's come.

Next week, we'll look at a different kind of museum while we explore the Ghibli films and the places and structures that inspired them.
See you then!  

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