The Fire Museum has something engaging for everyone who share a fascination for everything related to fires and similar emergency situations. If you have kids with you, the first thing you might want to do is to head to the information desk and ask the staff when the helicopter at the top of the building is open to the public that day so that you can plan your visit around this. Kids get a kick sitting inside a real helicopter so there's a bit of a line when this activity is available.
Then, explore the rest of the museum at leisure. I didn't want to miss anything so I decided to be organized and start from the basement even though the main entrance to the museum is on the ground floor. The basement is home to some of the most beautiful vintage fire trucks from the 1920s when motor fire engines were first introduced. These old trucks look like they could tell you many stories about the firefighting and rescue missions they have served. It might frustrate kids that they cannot touch or climb into these trucks, but fret not because they can go crazy on the third floor where all the interactive exhibits are located.
The ground floor offers a breathtaking welcome to visitors. It actually extends up two floors because a France-made fire helicopter hovers above. Here is also where you meet "Fire-kun," the Tokyo Fire Department's mascot.
Now the third floor is probably where you will spend the most time if you have kids with you. You will be greeted by a huge diorama that will spring to life with lights, sounds and moving pieces, as a video explains the scenario. Watch how the fire department responds to a fire emergency. Your aspiring firefighter will probably be inspired to play dress up and sit inside a fire truck (at least front part of it), and set off the sirens, and there's an area to do just that. Parents and kids alike might find the childproofing exhibit interesting. Walk through a model living room and press buttons to learn about the various hazards around the house. Want to drive a fire truck to its destination? Try your hand at the diorama that allows you to move a fire truck remotely with buttons. If you are unable to work the helicopter at the top of the building into your schedule, don't worry. There is a life-sized helicopter on this floor. Kids and adults alike can sit up front where a huge video screen simulates the flight of a fire helicopter in the middle of a mission. Should you get tired, there is an enclosed booth in the middle of the third floor where you can sit down and watch fire related cartoons (available in English).
Older children and adults will probably find the fourth and the fifth floors more interesting. Here you will find exhibits on the history of fire fighting service, hisotrical scrolls, and changes in firefighting outfits over the years. Worth noting is a detailed diorama of fire fighting in the Edo Period. One cannot help but appreciate how far we have come along in making a safer society.
If you, like some families, plan to have a long day, pack a lunch and when you get hungry or need a rest, head to the 10th floor Observation Room. This space has huge viewing windows and a nice view of the city. If you're lucky and the weather permits, you might even get to see the Sky Tree and Mt. Fuji.
The Fire Museum is located at Yotsuya 3-10, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0004 and the most convenient way to get there is by train. The nearest station is Yotsuya-Sanchome Station on the Marounouchi Line (there is direct access to the museum from the subway). Open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m and closed Monday, and from December 28 - January 4 and, as you already know, admission is free!