Because I got caught in Shinjuku Station's rush hour, by the time I finally arrived to the station the last bus of the morning reaching the museum had already left... I had to walk instead. I thought it would be a longer walk, but the 45 minutes from the station to the museum passed very quickly since the town itself was so stunning and beautiful. I was almost sad when I arrived to the museum since the walk was over. Needless to say I walked back to the station after the museum visit. If I ever go to live in Japan, you might find me in Koganei!
So, to the museum.
I visited the first of the houses by myself, but in the second building I found a guide showing a few construction details to some Spanish visitors and I discreetly eavesdropped while I pretended to look around. The house belonged to Hachirouemon Mitsui and was decorated and furnished mixing both occidental and Japanese styles. In my opinion the owner was obsessed with birds since he had some sort of bird decoration in almost every room.
When I figured my lack of subtlety was starting to be embarrassing I headed to the second floor of the building to look at the engraved wood on the ceiling. Maybe I was looking too intensely because a woman from around there started telling me about it. She was apparently a guide from the museum who picked up strays like myself and showed them around (for free!). There were many other guides just hanging around the first few buildings, but most of them only spoke a little English. I didn’t speak much Japanese either, but somehow the lady and I managed to understand each other enough and I learnt quite a bit.
After the more modern houses we came across some thatched roof Edo period houses and came across the owner of one of them. He told me about the house and explained how they used to live in the edo times as he picked at the fire pit in the middle of the room. I don’t have many photos of the first houses since I didn’t want the guide to have to wait for me.
She soon had to leave but she was very excited to know that I had heard of and seen Spirited Away, so she took me over to the bathhouse and the tram in the museum before going back to her spot at the start (Hayao Miyazaki received inspiration from this museum to create the bathhouse town in his movie Spirited Away).
The buildings along this road were mostly shops from the early Showa period (1926-1989) that used to sell things like calligraphy goods, cosmetics, seaweed, tobacco and other things, and many had copper plates on the outside in the old kanban architecture style. You can go into most of the stores and the insides are made to look like how they would’ve looked like in those times.
I bought an ice cream from a lady in a kimono and sat down next to the pond at the end of the street. The water looked kind of murky, but afterwards I saw two turtles and some koi fish. Inside one of the buildings was a group of elders sitting around a table and they waved at me to come sit down with them when they saw me looking at what they were doing. They showed me how to make kazaguruma (an origami pinwheel) and a sitting origami crane.
I had lunch before seeing the last few buildings. You can eat on the top floor of one of the stores, they have one of those vending machines where you pay for your order then give the piece of paper to the waiter instead of asking directly. They gave me a big spoon but no chopsticks to eat my udon and I was too embarrassed to ask in case I was somehow supposed to eat it without chopsticks (don’t ask me how I would’ve managed that), but luckily I had some in my bag from when I bought some food at a konbini the night before.
The houses left were from around the Second World War times and had many occidental influences. There is also an impressive small temple constructed by Princess Chiyo, wife of Mitsutomo Tokugawa, to hold a service for her mother Ofuri-no-kata (wife of the third shogun, Iemitsu Tokugawa). It was highly decorated and you could get up really close to look at the details.
By the time I left it was already four o’clock, I had spent the whole day there! They also have a very nice gift shop.
This was my first day in Tokyo on my first trip, so as you can imagine this was also my first time walking on tatami mats in many of the houses, as well as the first torii I ever saw and people wearing kimono. I definately hope to be back there one day since I now know many new things that I probably missed during my first visit.
Has anyone else been to any open air museums?