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Fukagawa Edo Museum: Edo Fans Must Visit!

Fukagawa Edo Museum: Edo Fans Must Visit!

Translated by MATCHA_En

Written by IshizawaYoshinori

Kiyosumi-Shirakawa 2015.02.04 Bookmark

The Fukagawa Edo Museum is a "must-see spot" to know just what the lives of commoners' life in the Edo period (1603-1868) were like.

Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station on the Hanzomon and Oedo Lines is on the east fringe of central Tokyo. The Fukagawa Edo Museum is three minutes walking distance from the station and is a "must-see spot" for those wanting to know more about commoners' lives in Edo period (1603-1868).

It may sound exaggerated but there are three reasons to say this is a "must-see" place. Before explaining the reasons, I will show you the exterior of the building first. It doesn't really look like anything too exciting does it?

This ordinary exterior is the reason that so many people believe this to be nothing more than a common archive. Visitors start with very low expectations, which is a good thing!

People who are famous for their association to the Fukagawa area introduced in this area, which made me initially think that the whole museum would be like this.

Reason 1: Reproduction of Edo Town

As you proceed through the museum the way, there is a wide staircase leading downstairs underground...

Then suddenly, Edo appears right before your eyes! Look, there's even a cat on the roof!

A faithful reproduction of Edo has been built here underground. I bet you didn't expect that!

The Fukagawa area is reclaimed land, and was completed in Edo period. The location promoted waterway transportation and relevant businesses flourished around the area. For a comparison to present-day Japan, the closest match would be Odaiba.

The boat in the picture below is the one that carried people and goods. Charcoal was shipped most frequently and took the largest part of the transportation industry at the time, because it was a daily necessity, used to boil water, cook rice and so on.

Boathouse taverns called funayado surrounded the harbor. Funayado literally means 'boat inn' (funa/boat, yado/inn), however these spots didn't actually provide accommodations. They were mainly restaurants for sailors and secret meeting places for lovers.

This museum is the best place to see daily life in the area as it truly was - a very impressive place to look around.

Most archive museums only display pictures and reproductions of old items behind velvet ropes and glass cases, or expository writings by experts on different areas. But this is a totally different sort of museum; here you can really enjoy the reality of the times thanks to these reproductions.

Reason 2: Hands on Experience

With all these reproductions around, it must still get boring just looking at everything, right? Not at all! This is a hands on museum; you can touch and interact with most of the items displayed here. If you aren't sure whether something is safe to touch, then please ask the helpful staff.

For example, take a look at the tempura stand below.

There are reproductions of the types of tempura that were common at the time. You can pick them up and take a closer look at all of them.

Did you notice the difference? The tempura of the time were all on skewers and eaten by customers standing around the stall. The most popular variety were shrimp as their red and white colors were considered lucky. More so in the past than now people were superstitious and relied on lucky items to make their lives better. This is considered to be a trait of the Edo era people.

Reason 3: Excellent, Knowledgeable Staff

This is the final reason that I think this museum is a must see. A museum, no matter how interesting the displays wouldn't be worth paying attention to if there weren't any information or explanations for what was being shown. That is not the case at the Fukagawa Edo Museum. The staff here are very knowledgeable and capable of answering any questions you may have about the time.

Their explanations carry even more weight as each display has its own story. For example, this is the house of the widow Oshizu-san.

Oshizu-san is 36 years old and makes her living by teaching songs after her husband passed away. The tools of her trade can be seen in her house here, and in the following picture, you can see her pet cat in a basket. The cat on the roof earlier is this cat's mother. Attention to detail in this degree is what makes these displays so interesting.

The other example is the house of a young man, a peddler named Masasuke.

He is an ambitious young man dreaming of success in Edo. The letters on the sliding panel of his house, in the picture above, say 'mukimi', which means shellfish that have been removed from their shells. Masasuke collects the shellfish on the nearby coast and sells them. This is a business that cost very little to start.

His room is untidy because he is a busy, single young man.

The outer shells were not disposed of once the shellfish had been removed but were also sold for use as paving materials. In the Edo era, everything was recycled, which meant that they were more economically and ecologically minded as a whole.

The overall value of the museum is raised by the capable staff and the reproduction of daily lives of the day. Interesting stories never end here; I would not be able to learn such things if I strolled around by myself alone.

There are English speaking staff here to aid non-Japanese speakers that would like to learn more about the Edo era, and during my visit I saw many tourists walking about happily. When you visit, just look for someone wearing a name tag, and they will be able to help you and guide you about.

I ardently recommend this museum for anyone who wants to come in touch with Edo culture.


Fukagawa Edo Museum
Address: Tokyo, Koto, Shirakawa 1-3-28
Hours: 9:30-17:00 (last entry at 16:30)
Closed: 2nd and 4th Monday every month (if a national holiday, closed Tuesday), New Years; repairs
Nearest Station: Kiyosumi Shirakawa Station, Oedo and Hanzomon lines
Access: 3 minute walk from the station
Phone Number: 03-3630-8625
Website: Fukagawa Edo Museum

The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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