History on Display at the Edo-Tokyo Museum

For a country with a history and culture as long and rich as Japan’s, you might expect to see more evidence of that history in Tokyo’s city streets. Unfortunately, that history is also the reason also explains the modern city streets of Tokyo. The historic buildings and cultural sites were all destroyed during the air raids of World War II. There are a few recreations of historic buildings, but the Japanese opted for modern redevelopment.


As a result, the Edo-Tokyo museum is one of the few places you can go to see what Tokyo looked like during the Edo period. The Edo period of Japan spanned from 1603 to 1868. To enter the exhibit area of the museum, you’ll cross over a large wooden bridge. This bridge is a re-creation of the main bridge into Edo, which was the a hub for transportation routes into the city. The bridge, located in an area known as Nihonbashi, joined together the Five Routes that connected the entire country of Japan during the Edo period.

The museum features large, elaborate miniature displays of life in Tokyo during the Edo period. The miniatures really do a great job of capturing the architecture and daily life in Japan during this time. You’ll find yourself standing at this display for a long time while examining the tiny details in each of the buildings as well as the figures.

Moving on, another one of my favorite exhibits was a life-size example of a residence. This gives a whole new meaning to the tiny house. In a space smaller than the average modern home, families in the Edo period had space where the entire family slept, ate, worked, and played. In this area, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience some of life in the Edo period for yourself. You can try to lift buckets of water that adults carried as well as working what served as the Edo-period fire alarm.

Kabuki theater also began in Japan during the Edo period. The museum celebrates the history of this unique art form. Kabuki combines music, dance, drama, and elaborate makeup and costumes. It is kind of like an old Japanese version of modern musical theater.

Although the museum focuses on the Edo period, there are also exhibits showcasing modern Japanese history. One of my favorite modern exhibits showed how the development of the Tokyo rail system influenced changes in population and property value growth.

Visiting the Museum

  • Location: The Edo-Tokyo museum is in Tokyo’s Ryogoku neighborhood, which is also home to the National Sumo Stadium. Take the Oedo subway line to Ryogoku station. Take some time to look at all of the sumo displays at Ryogoku station too. You can see how you size up against famous sumo wrestlers.
  • Languages: The exhibits have captions in Japanese and English. Recorded audio guides are available in Japanese, English, Korean, and Chinese. You can also request a personal tour guide who speaks Japanese or English. This service is available at no extra charge, and the guides are outstanding.
  • Visit the Edo-Tokyo museum web site for the current hours and prices. They do have discounted rates for students, but you need to have your student ID with you.

Don’t miss my post on the 7 quirky things you should know before you visit Japan for the first time!

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