Blog CJ Jenkins Historical Sites Museums Temple Japan

Edo-Tokyo’s open air museum!

Every semester, Temple Japan’s Office of Student Serves and Engagement (OSSE) creates a list of trips and activities that give students the opportunity to explore areas outside of their dorm or Temple’s Campus. However, the spaces are limited, so you had better make sure you wake up on time when the registration opens! It seems like OSSE really tries to plan things worth signing up for, and it shows in the fact that there were no spots left for any of the activities just minutes after registration opened! I was lucky enough to get into almost all the ones I wanted. 

This past weekend was the trip to the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in the Koganei area. This museum was opened in 1993 to preserve historical artifacts representing what Tokyo was like in the Edo Period hundreds of years ago. We were told that, to prevent demolition, these homes were transported whole from their original location to their new “home,” where they are now on display for anyone curious to see what traditional Japanese homes were like. Along with the houses, there were also other buildings you would commonly find in a town in Edo-Tokyo: a bank, shops displaying assortments of cosmetics, flowers, teas, and of course, it wouldn’t be authentic if there wasn’t a bath house in the center of town (there was). 

Some of the buildings on display. A maroon and teal colored house with interesting architecture. And a sunflower patch acting as a divider between them.
These probably aren’t what you would probably think of when you hear Edo-Tokyo, but this was probably my favorite area in the museum.

So, before the actual day of the trip, the OSS staff told us there would be some sort of friendly competition between groups of students. It would take place at the museum, and we would find out what it was when we got there. Upon arrival at the museum, we were asked to get into groups of 5 and were handed a polaroid camera along with a list of prompts describing scenes. Whichever group could take the best/coolest/most creative pictures (decided by a school-wide vote) following the guidelines would receive ¥3000 for each member. With a free karaoke night on the line, it was no longer a friendly competition.  

Shortly after setting off to explore the grounds, my group and I came across an absolutely stunning house. Before we could enter, we had to remove our shoes, which you will find is very common if you ever have the chance to visit Japan. The house was even bigger on the inside than it looked, and that combined with something about the architecture made it feel like we were walking through a maze. All the floors were lined with tatami mats, and as I repeated to my group many times, they were so ridiculously comfortable to walk on. In our shared entrancement, we almost forgot we had a challenge to win, and our time was running out! 

As we walked through the town, we were trying to think of how we could take some absolute winner shots, but it was hard when we kept getting distracted by everything around us. While there were similarities between all the buildings, they were not just copy-and-pasted from one to the next. They each had their own special external characteristics that were even more amplified by the contents within them. But when we found an old yellow train car, we knew we had found our first spot. One of the prompts was “You are stuck in the Edo era and you’re about to miss your last train back to the present!” I think it’s better to let the picture speak for itself, but we put a lot of effort into that one. After the extensive production of that shot, we hardly had any time left, but of course that didn’t stop us from completing our challenge (see below). 

When time finally came, we met up with the OSSE trip leaders to return the instax cameras they gave us as they said goodbye. They had to go, but we were free to stay until whenever we wanted. My group and I took this opportunity to do another loop around the whole place before going to the Soba noodle shop to reward ourselves for a job well done. It can get blazing hot in the summer months of Japan, and cold soba is often eaten as a nice refreshing meal to cool off satisfy your taste buds. I had never purposely eaten cold noodles before (maybe once on a lazy day), but this may have gotten me hooked. While it doesn’t look too special, it was so scrumptious, and the simplicity of it makes it a great comfort food; would definitely recommend it, as well as the museum as a whole. For us, it was an interesting way to see some of the differences and similarities between present- day Tokyo and that of the Edo Period, as well as meet some new people and create some great memories. 

The lunch set that I ordered at the soba restaurant. It came with cold noodles, a soy sauce broth, vegetables, and of course, tea!
Cold soba is a usually a fairly simple meal, but it was so delicious, and cheap too! Just looking at this pictures make me want more.

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