Mexico City, Mexico
May 13, 2002
The Fukugawa Edo Museum attempts to recreate life as it was in Tokyo in the
nineteenth century. At that stage Tokyo was still called Edo and the Tokugawa
Shoguns ruled Japan from Edo while the Emperor was just a powerless symbol
living in Kyoto.
The museum recreated several life size buildings typical of Fukagawa, a
neighborhood on the east side of the Sumida River in Tokyo. This part of Edo
prospered from the mid-eighteenth century as craftsmen and traders congregated
here and established the need for further services and entertainment. This was
an era in which the nobles (samurai) looked down upon the merchants, even though
the latter where financially much stronger.
The main part of the museum is a three story high hall with the recreated
neighborhood. All details are faithful to the original down to the use of the
correct type of nails and wood - no cleverly disguised concrete here as is so
common with many other post-World War II reconstructions in Japan. The buildings
include warehouses, shops (oil, vegetable, rice), tenement houses, stalls, a
fire tower, tavern and a canal.
It is possible to peek into all the buildings. As was the practice then, and
still today in most houses in Japan, you have to take your shoes off if you want
to enter further than the landing. This is allowed in most buildings here and
visitors may go into the rooms to see the displays closer up. However, it is
possible to see most of the displays by just entering the rooms - privacy was
very limited and there really isn’t much place to hide anything from public
The neighborhood includes a main street but also very narrow alleys with very
realistic fittings throughout - some corners and overhangs are really just
waiting for a personal injury lawsuit to happen!
The museum has special lighting effects that can recreate day and night but
it was fairly dark most of the time making photography without a flash and
tripod difficult. (The accompanied photos are digitally enhanced!).
The museum is located in a beautiful narrow tree lined street and several of
the shopkeepers wore period costume. The public toilets in this street follow
the theme. There is also a temple (with zero English explanations) in the same
street with a lovely small garden and a seated Buddha. The restaurant across the
street has an enlarged New York Times write up and was crowded enough to confirm
the review. Some of the shops look as if time stood still, maybe not since Edo
times but little changed since the 1960s.
The museum is similar in aim to the Shitamachi Museum in Ueno, but much better done and
certainly worth going of the beaten track.
Entry: yen 300
Location: 1-3-28 Shirakawa, Koto-ku, Tel: 03-3630-8625
Hours: 09:30 - 17:00, closed second and fourth Monday each month
Access: 3 min walk from Kiyosumi Shirakawa station on the Oedo Subway line
From journal Slightly off the beaten track in Central Tokyo