Sometimes getting lost and arriving into a small town in the rural side of any prefecture in Japan is not necessarily something bad; having an adventurer’s spirit may be the key in turning an “unfortunate” event into a memorable day. That is what happened to me and my girlfriend when we got lost and arrived in Sakura city in the Northern area of Chiba Prefecture.
Ever heard of Sakura city in Chiba? Well, Sakura city is a small-size town with around 180 thousand inhabitants, located in the northeastern side of Chiba prefecture. Getting there takes around some 60 min. ride by train from Tokyo or 20 min. from Chiba city.
So, what is special about this town that would make someone (a tourist, a foreigner living in Japan, or a national) spend one day there? Well, after getting out of the train station (either JR or Keisei), one is not able to see anything special about the town; but the truth is that this place is home to the massive and magnificent National Museum of Japanese History built in the remaining grounds of a castle dated from the Sengoku(warring states) period.
If you are the type of person that likes to visit museums, wishes to better understand the history of Japan as a whole (from the Paleolithic to Modern age), or likes to explore new places then you should give this place a try.
According to the official website of the National Museum of Japanese History you can either access from the JR or Keisei lines after arriving to JR Sakura or Keisei Sakura Station. However, the JR Sakura Station is located in the opposite end of the city, requiring you to take a 15 min bus to arrive at the museum; while, if you go from the Keisei Sakura Station you can walk there (approx. 15 min.) enjoying the beauty of the town.
Click here for more information about the access
The National Museum of Japanese History is home to six massive galleries which hold its permanent exhibitions open all year long to tourists. Here is a list of the themes of the exhibitions of each gallery:
- Dawn of Japanese Civilization, Rice Growing Era, and Establishment of First State and Court (50,000 B.C.E. – 10th Century C.E.). Please note, this is gallery 1 and is closed for renovation as of 2018. It will be reopened in Spring 2019. Other galleries are still open.
- Court Cultures from different periods, Uprisings and the come to power of Daimyo, Maritime age of Japan (10th – 17th Century C.E.)
- Life during Japan’s Early Modern Edo Period (16th – 19th Century C.E.)
- Folk Cultures, Life Styles, and Waza
- Civilization during Meiji Period, Industrialization and Militarism, Early 20th Century Lifestyle
- Life During WWII and Post-War Japan
The size of the galleries, amount of displayed content, and the quality of the reproductions (maps, miniatures, etc.) impressed me. I have visited the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima city among others, and this museum is comparable to them in every aspect. Every display is enjoyable by itself and the experience gets even better if you ask for the free-of-charge English audio guide. The gallery’s content along with their narration brought out my inner child; at one point, after 2 hours being inside the museum (66% done) we had to “rush” in order to finish the remaining 2 galleries.
The staff is very nice and are good English speakers, making the treatment even better for those who lack Japanese skills.
For more information about the content, please refer to the museum’s official website.
After enjoying a great time at the museum it is time to find a nice spot in the vast gardens of the remains of Sakura Castle and enjoy a perfect evening.
The castle grounds beside the museum are what used to be the external part of the castle and now are a nice 200-meter wide grass field surrounded by Sakura trees and Pines. If you walk deeper inside, you will eventually reach the inner grounds which once were home to the main building and now are a vast area of 100 meters surrounded by beautiful highlands with more Sakura trees. In between those two locations you will walk through a 300-meter area filled with of Momiji (maple), Pines, Cedars, and other kinds of trees. All of the grounds are perfect for enjoying a well-deserved lunch in the open air or to have a romantic picnic with your very special one (highly recommended).
So, if you feel like enjoying a wonderful day, learning more about Japanese culture and history and enjoying nature and its beauty, then I recommend you to give Sakura City a try. You might find yourself charmed by the place and the experience, wanting to go back again, just like us!
National Museum of Nature and Science: Peek into Early Japanese History