Closed since the beginning of March due to repair works, the Edo-Tokyo Museum will soon be opening it’s doors once more to inform and delight its many visitors. You can reach it via the JR Sobu line and the Toei Oedo Line – located not far from the Ryogoku Subway station. An adult ticket is 600 Yen, which does not include any special exhibitions.
On entering the museum you will cross over a large bridge, dividing the cavernous hall in two. Many of the artefacts are from ancient Tokyo (or, as it was known until 1868, Edo – hence the name The Edo-Tokyo Museum.)
As is often the case in East Asian museums, there were plenty of scale models that were strewn with miniature figurines, set amongst tiny houses, going about their daily lives. There were also saw several ‘light shows’ where the scene has a film projected onto it, so to the viewers in front of the screen it looks like real people are walking about the scene.
One of the first artefacts I saw at the museum was a replica of a kago – a Japanese sedan chair. A true kago litter would have been more primitive – styled like a hammock and less like the regal carrying chairs of Henry VIII’s England that we often spring to mind when we think of royalty being ferried about. The kago in the Edo-Tokyo museum entrance was on the floor for people to try out, and you could climb in through a door which slid back and forth.
One of my favourite artefacts was an old lacquer writing table and an ink stone in a decorated lacquer box. The lacquer work was tastefully done – no garish colours – with details in gold on black. The ink stone case was decorated with a painting of Mt. Yoshino, and the writing table showed a wiry river winding its way through a landscape of twisted branches. Other relics in that section of the museum included intricately painted folding screens, statues, pottery and a selection of ancient coins.
For people who like the ‘hands on’ sections at museums, the Edo-Tokyo Museum will not disappoint. You can try out the kago litter, for starters. The section dedicated to the Edo fire brigade (founded in 1629 during the Edo era), had a standard you could wield – less like a flag and more like an octopus-on-a-stick. When swung around, the long tassels made the totem look like a furious dragon. It was too heavy for me to lift, and I didn’t fancy my luck lifting the ‘night soil’ buckets either – they were suspended on a pole, laden to the weight of 25kg.
Other parts of the museum that I really enjoyed: the section on child rearing, and the extensive section on printing and publishing. Another favourite artefact were the ‘sea clogs’ – basically stilts that you strap to your feet for when you are ‘working in the sea’. The smaller pair were less than a meter high but the taller ones were pretty much the same height as me. There was a bit at the far end of the hall about modern Japan, with a special exhibitions on technology, and a bit about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But since the museum is currently being renovated – maybe when it reopens in the near future, visitors will be treated to a whole new range of exhibits and artefacts aside from those listed here.