Journey into Tokyo’s forgotten past, before it became a modern Metropolis.
One of several museums dotted around Ueno Park, Shitamachi Museum is something of a journey into Tokyo’s past.
Aimed at giving visitors an insight into life during Japan’s Taisho Period (1912-1926), Shitamachi Museum features accurate recreations of houses and tenements of that period. Shitamachi Town, which encompassed modern-day Tokyo’s Taito, Chiyoda and Chuo Wards, was historically home to the city’s lower classes.
While many museums in Japan tend to focus on the glory of the Samurai warrior, or the elegance of the Feudal Lord’s and their retainers, Shitamachi Museum is one of the few that tells the story of ordinary people, and how they lived their lives during what turned out to be a pivotal point in Japanese modern history.
Unlike many of Japan’s museum, Shitamachi offers guided tours, with many of the guides speaking English. If it is your first visit to Tokyo, then these guides provide a great way of getting some additional information beyond what you’ll read in the typical tourist guides.
Exploring the museum
The first floor of the museum consists of a typical city street of the time period, accentuated by a series of home recreations. A merchant’s house, a footwear maker, a coppersmith and a simple family.
All of the items in these houses are real items from the period that were donated by members of the public, giving this museum a more personal and immersive feel. Visitors are free to enter the various mock-up houses and get up close with all the artifacts therein. Don’t forget to take your shoes off before entering though!
The second floor takes on the appearance of a more conventional museum, with a series of individual exhibits and items of interest, again all donated by members of the public. For kids, or even just children at heart, the second floor of the museum also has a selection of old toys from the period, that can be picked up and played with, adding further to the sense of immersion one feels when visiting this museum.