Have you ever wondered what Tokyo would have looked like today if not for the random acts of nature such as earthquakes and floods and acts of man such as fires, air raids and city redevelopment? Fortunately, the Edo Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, where various historic buildings have been preserved in their original state can satisfy your curiosity.
The Museum located in Koganei, a suburb of Tokyo, features traditional buildings from the Meiji period (1868-1912) to more recent times, including the elegant home of former Prime Minister Takahashi Korekiyo, pre-war shops, a sento (public bath), Western-style buildings, a farm house and even a police box. Visitors can enter and explore the structures and observe the changes in building styles, trends and lifestyle that catalyzed the transformation of Tokyo into the metropolis that it has become today.
The Edo Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is divided into three distinct areas: center, east and west, each with a specific theme (historical, suburban and downtown). Visitors enter the museum through a ceremonial gate commemorating the 2600th anniversary of Japan. Once through the gate, guests can access the center area. Highlights here include the residence of former Prime Minister Takahashi Korekiyo and a traditional Japanese tea house complete with a beautiful garden.
The east area of the museum houses buildings from the late Meiji and early Showa periods including a replica of one of the first izakayas (Japanese-style bars). However, the main attraction seems to be a traditional Japanese sento.
The west area of the museum stands in stark contrast to the east and features homes and buildings of the Japanese elite, which bear a strong western influence. These homes have gas and electric powered kitchens and lavish western furniture, a luxury afforded only to the privileged. There is also a Showa period photo studio with all of its original equipment intact, where visitors can have their photos taken and developed. Lastly several beautiful Edo period farmsteads can be seen where daily life is reenacted.
The museum is located in the western part of Koganei Park, Koganei City, just 25 minutes west of Shinjuku Station if traveling by train. Its hours of operation are 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM (4:30 PM from October-March).