Written by Mila (GREATERTOKYO_Explorer)
Dreamlike Museums and Exhibitions! A Fun-Filled Day Trip to Tokorozawa
Just a 30-minute train ride from Tokyo, Tokorozawa boasts exciting museums that celebrate art, nature, and history. This day-trip itinerary takes you to the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum and the Kadokawa Culture Museum, where you'll find yourself surrounded by amazing and inspiring exhibitions.
Discover Art and History in Tokorozawa
Tokorozawa, located in Saitama and about thirty minutes by train from Ikebukuro Station, has been in the spotlight recently thanks to the opening of Kadokawa Culture Museum, a new cultural facility located in an impressive, futuristic building.
Known as the birthplace of Japanese aviation, Tokorozawa is filled with the magical energy that inspired works like "My Neighbour Totoro," one of Studio Ghibli's most famous films.
Tokorozawa is a great day trip destination for art lovers and fans of Japanese pop-culture looking for a breath of fresh air in the outskirts of Tokyo. Read on to find tips on how to enjoy a day trip to Tokorozawa to the fullest.
9:20 - 9:54 -- Depart from Ikebukuro Station
Our first recommended destination is the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum, which is located in Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park.
We suggest taking the 9:20 express train for Hanno on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line and changing trains at Tokorozawa Station. From platform 1 at Tokorozawa Station, take a local train headed to Hon-Kawagoe to reach Koku-koen, the station nearest to the Aviation Park.
10:10 - 11:00 -- Finding Flight at the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum
Once you reach Koku-koen Station, take the East Exit and you’ll be greeted by an Air Nippon propeller passenger plane (YS-11) built in 1969. Home to the first airfield in Japan, the grounds of Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park are sprinkled with formally used aircraft.
The park is full of visitors in all seasons who come to fly their own miniature airplane models or have picnics. The highlight of the park is the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum.
At the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum, visitors can get an up-close and personal look at some of the former aircraft on the first floor. Aside from an up-close inspection of the planes, visitors can also enjoy some of the more interactive exhibitions on the first floor including a hot air balloon and a wind tunnel testing device.
Part of the exhibition illustrates the beginnings of air flight in the world and in Japan. You might be surprised to learn how far back the first attempts to build flying devices go!
One of the most exciting corners of the exhibit is the spacewalk simulator. Participants are strapped into a chair and can choose one of three walking courses to experience what it’s like to walk in space or on the Moon.
The second floor is dedicated to the history of the Tokorozawa airfield and its pioneers. The city has developed drastically since the first plane was flown here. Yoshitoshi Tokugawa (1884-1963) made the first flight in an engine-powered aircraft in December 1910, marking Japan's continued innovation in flight technology.
Included in the museum is a movie theater showing short 40-minute films themed around space and flight on a large screen.
The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is the ideal place to learn more about humanity's dream to fly.
11:20 - 12:00 -- Refresh Your Spirit with Nature and Sweets at Saishotei
Directly across from the museum is a Japanese tea garden named Saishotei. The tea house inside offers a wonderful view of the garden. Visitors can enjoy tea and traditional snacks inside.
We recommend the Matcha Set (440 yen), which includes a bowl of matcha tea and a delicious traditional confection. The sweets are decorated beautifully with seasonal motifs, and the line-up differs each season.
Take a walk in the garden and you'll discover a waterfall, a bamboo grove, seasonal flowers, and foliage. The view will recharge your mind and spirit for the day!
12:16 - 12:18 -- Travel to Tokorozowa Station
For lunch, we suggest going back to Tokorozawa Station, just a two-minute ride on a local train via the Seibu Shinjuku Line.
12:30 - 13:30 -- Lunch at Grand Emio Tokorozawa
Grand Emio Tokorozawa is a shopping complex adjacent to Tokorozawa Station that opened in 2018. The food court is on the third floor and has many restaurants serving a wide variety of Japanese and international cuisine.
The average price for a set meal is around 1,200 yen per person including a drink, which makes Grand Emio an affordable and trendy option while you’re exploring Tokorozawa. The shops here are also ideal if you're looking for souvenirs or snacks.
13:34 - 13:57 -- Travel to Higashi-Tokorozawa Station
Our next destination is the Kadokawa Culture Museum, located in Higashi-Tokorozawa. From Tokorozawa Station, take a local train or a semi-express train toward Ikebukuro on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line and get off at the next station, Akitsu.
From here, you'll need to change trains to the JR Musashino Line. It's an 8-minute walk to the JR Shin-Akitsu Station. From Shin-Akitsu, take a train headed to Tokyo and get off at Higashi-Tokorozawa, the first station.
14:15 - 16:30 -- Dive into Art, History, and Pop Culture at Kadokawa Culture Museum
Picture courtesy of ©Kadokawa Culture Museum
The Kadokawa Culture Museum had its 2020 grand opening in Tokorozawa Sakura Town, a new leisure and entertainment district in Higashi-Tokorozawa. The design of the futuristic 40-meter tall masterpiece was supervised by renowned architect Kengo Kuma. The museum was built using 20,000 granite stones, creating a stunning asymmetrical facade that looks more science fiction than real life.
The museum consists of five floors featuring a special exhibition gallery and a manga and light novel library on the first floor, the Kado Cafe and Rock Museum Shop on the second floor, the Entertainment Japan (EJ) Anime Museum on the third floor, the Edit Town library, which includes the Bookshelf Theater, on the fourth floor, and a gallery dedicated to the history and culture of the Musashino region on the fifth floor. Please note that the tickets for the special exhibition, the permanent exhibitions, and the third-floor exhibition are sold separately. Check the ticket page of the facility for details.
The special exhibition on display in the first-floor Grand Gallery features contemporary Japanese art and culture and changes regularly. When we visited, we were able to see YOKAI PANDEMONIUM 2020, a fascinating exhibition on monsters and demons that appear in legends from all around Japan. This exhibition is curated by Hiroshi Aramata, an author, critic, and specialist in natural history and iconography.
Edit Town is the crown jewel of the cultural museum. It's a library of over 25,000 books divided into nine sections, a gallery, and exhibition areas. The book collection covers a variety of subjects such as Japanese culture, lifestyle, technology, and art. With seats placed around the library, visitors are welcome to pick up a book to read for an hour or two.
The Bookshelf Theater located in the back of Edit Town is a 360 degree 8-meter tall library combining theater with literature. At fixed times several times a day, a movie created using projection mapping is shown using the Bookshelf Theater as a background. The library is a reflection of Kadokawa's roots as a history and literature publishing house and was created to revitalize interest in Japanese literature.
The EJ Anime Museum on the third floor celebrates 35 years of the NewType magazine publication with an anime chronicle exhibition. The exhibition displays the magazine publication features throughout the years as it follows the latest anime news coming out of Japan. Towards the end of the exhibit, visitors can also get a sneak peek at upcoming anime releases.
After viewing the exhibits, how about enjoying a break at Kado Cafe on the second floor? The cafe offers delicious desserts, dishes, and drinks, which can be enjoyed inside or outside the cafe.
Remember to stop for souvenirs at the Rock Museum Shop. At the shop, you can find original and fashionable items developed by the Kadokawa Culture Museum, books, art objects, as well as artisanal crafts from Saitama.
17:00 - 17:30 -- A Dreamlike Exhibition by teamLab
The collaborative projects of teamLab have captured the eyes of Japan's residents for a few years now. "Resonating Life in the Acorn Forest" is an installation by teamLab in Higashi-Tokorozawa Park, across from the Kadokawa Culture Museum.
This installation is part of the digitized nature project that uses non-hazardous digital technology to transform the Musashino Woods into an interactive art installation without leaving an environmental impact. In the daytime, the silver ovoid objects reflect the world around them, showing the beauty of the Musashino Woods foliage.
Once the sun goes down, the objects shine by themselves in multiple colors creating a dreamlike environment for visitors to walk through. Visitors can touch and interact with the spheres. With a simple push, they emit an ethereal sound, change color, and trigger a change of color in the area around them.
18:05 - 18:38 -- Back to Ikebukuro Station
From Higashi-Tokorozawa Station, take a train back to Shin-Akitsu, then go to Akitsu Station. From here, you can take a local train or a semi-express that takes you directly to Ikebukuro Station.
A Fun Day Out in Tokorozawa
Less than 30 minutes away from Tokyo, Tokorozawa is a great destination for those seeking a break from the fast pace of the city. The dreamlike museums here are the ideal destination for a fun-filled day out surrounded by nature and art.
To find other great places to visit in Saitama, please visit the following website: http://www.pref.saitama.lg.jp/chokotabi-saitama/eng/
Ikebukuro Station → Koku-koen Station → Tokorozawa Aviation Museum → Tea break at Saishotei → Tokorozawa Station → Lunch at Gran Emio Tokorozawa → Higashi-Tokorozawa Station → Kadokawa Culture Museum → Higashi-Tokorozawa Station → Ikebukuro Station
Transportation: about 1,300 yen
Museum entrance fees: about 6,000 yen
Lunch, snacks: about 2,500 yen
The writer visited these facilities on November 15, 2020.
Supported by Saitama Prefecture