Translated by Mariko Satoh
Enjoy The Old Sights Of Japan Amid Nature: Nihon Minka-en, Kawasaki
Written by Mami Wakamatsu
Nihon Minka-en is an open-air museum in Kawasaki, Kanagawa where you can enjoy visiting traditional Japanese houses from all across the country that were built 200-300 years ago.
Ikuta Ryokuchi in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture, is an area full of nature. Not only are there gardens in this beautiful park but there is also an art museum featuring the life and works of Taro Okamoto, a Kawasaki-born artist, and a planetarium. You can spend a relaxing day here by visiting these facilities, taking a walk or having a picnic.
See Parts of Traditional Japanese Life
Nihon Minka-en (The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum) is an open-air museum in Ikuta Ryokuchi Park. It was built in 1967 for the purpose of preserving Japanese traditional private houses, whose number is now decreasing. Here you can see twenty or more houses, some of which were built 200-300 years ago.
All the buildings found here at the Open-air Folk House Museum are designated as cultural properties by the nation, prefecture or city. Each house was actually used in the olden days, and has been dismantled, relocated and reconstructed in this area. This way you can have an authentic glimpse at how people were living back in the days of samurai. Guests are allowed to enter most of the houses.
Harake Jutaku: A Gorgeous Two-story Private House
The first thing you will see at the entrance is Harake Jutaku ("Hara Family House"). This house was built in the early 20th century, which is relatively new compared to other buildings in the museum.
In the countryside, you may still be able to see similar houses built by modern means, whereas this house is entirely constructed from wood and is of a style that developed drastically during the Edo Period. It is a gorgeous two-story house which took 22 years to complete.
Within the house there is a library space where you can sit on the tatami floor to read. It is the perfect place to relax for those who want to see what it is like to live in the traditional Japanese way.
Enter A Samurai Warrior's House
This is Sajike no Mon Tomomachi ("The Entrance Gate and the Waiting Room to the Saji Family House"), the entrance gate of a samurai warrior's house which was originally located in the southeast of Nagoya Castle. The tomomachi was the room where servants waited for their instructions. It also served as an entrance guard's room.
Former House of the Ota Family
At the Kyu Otake Jutaku ("the Former House of Ota Family"), you can take a closer look at the Japanese family lifestyle of the later 17th century.
Old pots sit on their hearths in what remains of the dirt-floor kitchen.
Each day, the irori is displayed in the way that it was used in ancient Japanese houses. Through this display, guests can have a better sense of the traditional lifestyle in Japan.
Suge no Sendo-goya: the Smallest Structure at the Museum
Let us now show you a very unique structure, the Suge no Sendo-goya, known in English as the Suge Ferrymen's Cabin. It is definitely the smallest building found at the Japan Open-air Folk Home Museum. It is so small that it can only fit one adult.
It was used by ferrymen to wait for passengers, rest and guard the river. Iron rings are installed in the columns at all four corners. By placing two large wooden poles through these rings, the cabin could be lifted and moved to higher ground by the ferrymen in times of floods or inclement weather.
How Long Does it Take to See Everything?
It takes at least about an hour to look around the whole museum even if you are walking fast. If you are willing to take time to see everything, we would recommend that you allow for about 2 hours to properly view all the exhibits. There is also a soba (Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour) restaurant called "Shirakawa-go" within the museum. It is a nice place to rest when you feel tired and hungry.
Moreover, there are two permanent exhibition rooms in the main building found at the entrance to Nihon Minka-en, where you can learn the basics about Japanese traditional houses. This is the best place to get more information on these amazing pieces of architectural history.
Lastly, there is one more important thing to point out. In case you start in order from the main entrance of the main building, you will finish at the back entrance or the west entrance. If you plan to visit the exhibition room after leaving the open-air museum, you will need to enter from the main entrance (re-entry is permitted only on the day).
The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is a place where you can see how the living conditions used to be in the time of samurai warriors. As the houses are real, not replicas, they are powerful and authentic. Found a mere 22 minutes from Shinjuku by train, it is easily accessible and a very pleasant, greenery-rich area. Please take the opportunity to visit this wonderful place.
Nihon Minka-En (The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum)
Address: Kanagawa, Kawasaki, Tama-ku, Masugata 7-1-1
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (March-October), 9:30-16:30 (November-February)
Closed: Monday (except for holidays on Monday), following day of a holiday (except for when it is a Saturday or a Sunday), New Year's Holiday
Other Languages: Japanese and English (Brochures are available in the following languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Tagalog)
Nearest Station: Mukogaoka-Yuen station, Odakyu line
Access: 13 minute walk from the South Exit of Mukogaoka-Yuen station
Entrance fee: 500 yen (general fee), 300 yen (high school and college students), free (children up to middle school, 9th grade), 300 yen (age 65 and up) *Identification is required for students and guests of age 65 and up
Website: Japan Open Air Folk House Museum