You’ll find tons of exhibits and museums about samurai in Japan, but it can be difficult to find ones that cater to tourists who don’t speak Japanese. However, the Samurai Museum in Shinjuku is different. Tucked in the heart of Kabukicho, it makes this integral part of Japanese culture more accessible. All the signs are written in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese, and an optional—but recommended—personal tour (available in English and Japanese) is included with the cost of admission (¥1,800 for an adult). It lasts about an hour and is worth every minute.
The museum is small and more of an introduction to samurai culture than an in-depth exploration of it, but it’s a must-see in Tokyo, regardless of your previous samurai knowledge. The displays have both authentic armor worn by real samurai as well as reproductions, plus Japanese swords, matchlock guns, helmets and other samurai paraphernalia.
The staff is knowledgeable, and thanks to the high staff to visitor ratio, you can ask as many questions as you’d like on a tour and enjoy the museum at your own pace. The resulting personal atmosphere is one of the museum’s highlights.
If you come between 2-5 p.m. daily, you’ll be able to enjoy a free demonstration about how to draw a sword like a samurai and a few basic sword stances. You can volunteer to learn these hands-on and even purchase a real katana from the museum shop. Note that tours will pause to enjoy the demonstration, so you don’t have to worry about missing the show if you join a tour.
Complete your experience with another one of the samurai-related activities at the museum. Learn about samurai swords in their bi-monthly lecture series in English or try your hand at samurai calligraphy.
If you are a big samurai buff, have your photo taken in the full armor of famous samurai like Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Ieyasu Tokugawa, Yukimura Sanada and more.