The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is a little gem hiding in away in the outskirts of Tokyo. Actually, it is in the neighbouring Kanagawa prefecture, but is so close that it might as well be in Tokyo anyway! It is a very cool place that needs to be on the bucket list for anyone with an interest in Japan, its history or architecture.
When one considers how quickly Japan modernised in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn many of its older buildings were torn down in the rush to modernise. Along with that loss of material history, was a loss of culture. And that was why the museum was opened in 1967, as a place to preserve those disappearing things in an effort to protect them for future generations.
The museum has twenty-five buildings, including a water mill, boathouse, storehouse, and a Kabuki stage as well as a variety of traditional houses from Eastern Japan . Of those twenty-five, eighteen have been designated as important national, prefectural and cultural assets. As well as the buildings there are other related items and implements that were found in Japan in earlier times. Everything found here is real, and at some point in the past was used by someone, somewhere.
You will see people at the museum actually use some of those implements. They will be enjoying a hot cup of tea while practising and preserving the traditional craft unless they be lost. You are quite welcome to sit down and join them. It is a really interesting place, and a good place to learn about something that was once highly valued.
And you have to remember that all the houses at the museum existed in different parts of Japan and were lived in by real people. When they were no longer needed they taken apart, and moved to where they stand today. So these buildings weren't constructed for visitors, they are the real thing. Just sure to pop into the main exhibition hall behind the reception building before you start to get a quick introduction to the basics of traditional Japanese house construction.
The museum doesn’t only show these old places, but it also explains why they developed like they did. For example, the gassho zukuri, a steeply sloped roof that prevented houses from collapsing under the weight of snow. There is so much to learn.
You could easily spend at least three hours walking around the museum if you wanted to see everything in its entirety (including having lunch at the restaurant). There are special exhibits throughout the year too, one of which is the kabuki stage which hosts a play every year (limited to 400 people). Other events are held as well so look at the museum`s homepage for further information.
There are two things which I need to mention about this museum. One is that it is is quite hilly. Some of the paths are only dirt so going there on a rainy day might involve some slipping and sliding if you aren't careful. The other thing is that some of the buildings are fairly empty. You will see some farm implements, tools and daily household items, but not in every house.
If you want a guide from your, they are available. There is a form to fill out (here) that you need to fax to the museum (the number is 044-934-8652). If you do go “solo” don’t worry too much about a language barrier. As you walk through the museum, there are a lot of plaques explaining everything (in both Japanese and English), so don’t worry too much!
The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is a great place to visit. It has a lot to see and do. For anyone with an interest in Japan, it older culture and history, it should be on their "must visit" list. And lastly, if you want to see want to see more Japanese houses you could also try the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Koganei city.
The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is a great place to visit. It has a lot to see and do. For anyone with an interest in Japan and its history, it should be on their "must visit" list. And very lastly, if you want to see want to see more Japanese houses you could also try the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Koganei city.
How do you get to the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum?
The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is located near Mukougaoka-Yuen station, Kanagawa prefecture (right next to Tokyo). Mukougaoka-Yuen is on the Odakyu line. From Shinjuku it takes a little over twenty minutes and costs 240 yen. From the station leave via the south exit. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to the museum. Here is a Google map to help you:
Opening times for the museum vary. From March to October it is open from 9:30 to 5pm (with last admittance at 4:30). From November to February it is open from 9:30am to 4:30pm (with last admittance at 4pm). It is closed on Mondays, but open on public holidays. For the New Year period, it is closed from December 29 to January 3.
General admission for adults is 500 yen.
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Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens - one of the smallest parks in Tokyo, but also one of the most beautiful
Musashi Imperial Graveyard - the resting place of two Japanese emperors and their wives
Seaside Top Observatory - an older observatory in Tokyo, but still has some interesting views