Edo-Tokyo Open-air Architectural Museum

My favourite Japanese movie would undoubtedly be Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away from Studio Ghibli. One of his inspirations for the beautiful design of the film was the Edo-Tokyo Open-air Architectural Museum.

The museum features a collection of transplanted traditional Japanese and Western influenced buildings from Meiji era Tokyo and is located in Koganei Park, the second largest in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

To reach there we caught the Seibu Line from beneath our hotel to Hana-Koganei station. We wandered around the area searching for breakfast from amongst the local shops and cafes, eventually settling on a tired looking Matsuya where two women served the mainly rice bowl dishes. At least there was salad.

Then we walked along Koganei Road towards the park under the warm sun. There were a number of large family restaurants and diners along the way and obviously expensive houses, large by Japanese standards.

Koganei Park would have looked magnificent when the almost 2,000 cherry trees were in full blossom. As it was, some were still blooming. It is a lovely place for a run, stroll or cycle. A steam train, CL57, sat waiting for a departure that would never come along truncated tracks.

We paid our entry fee for the museum and spent hours walking around the grounds and up into the buildings. Each was interesting in its own way. None were directly featured in Spirited Away, but you could see the influence that certain design features had on the movie.

Tokiwadai Photo Studio

My favourites were probably the traditional Japanese villas of Harirouemon Mitsui and Korekiyo Takahashi, for their tatami rooms overlooking traditional gardens. Then there was the more modern open comfort of architect Kunio Mayekawa’s house.

We relaxed and sipped tea boiled over the open fire irori of the Tenmyo Family farmhouse, smoke wafting over us and drifting upwards to help preserve the wooden structure.

The commercial street in the Eastern Zone featured a number of interesting buildings, from an umbrella maker to a florist. At the end is a bathhouse. My feet could have done with a soaking.

For lunch we ordered various udon dishes from the machine at the restaurant on the second floor of a “kura” warehouse, wandered a little more, then trudged out of the museum to the bus stop along Itsukaichu Road.

The bus to JR Musashi-Koganei station was infrequent and late, but direct and easier than walking. From there the Chuo Line carried us all the way to Tokyo Station, where we got off and caught the subway a single stop to Ginza Station.

I didn’t buy anything from the Sony Showcase store, but I sure wanted to. The staff gave me hints on finding a replacement powerpack for a laptop and finally explained that, yes, my existing noise cancelling earphones could be used as a hands-free microphone. Maybe once the Z4 tablet is released…

Sony even has a model railway inside!

We walked across to Bic Camera near Yurakucho Station looking for a third party powerpack. Despite a number of Sony VAIO replacement packs on sale and the assistance of the computer staff, none would fit. So it looks like an internet order from home. This branch of Bic Camera also sells model railways and toys and Alex and I got in trouble from B for taking so long.

The Ginza subway line took us all the way back to Shibuya. Alex plays Sega Allstars Racing on the PS3 and one of the tracks is “Shibuya Downtown”, so he wanted to see it for himself. The reality is nothing like the game, but the giant screens, neon lights and crowds around the famous Hachiko entrance are phenomenal sights in themselves.

Dinner was sushi, then it was B’s turn to make us suffer with visits to clothing shops. Japanese cafes serve the most magnificent looking desserts, but you often can’t find something when you are looking for it and we eventually had strawberry pie and a cherry thickshake in a McDonalds, I’m sorry to say.


A couple of stops back along the Yamanote Line and we had returned to Shinjuku, joining a very long queue of foreigners in Matsumoto Kiyoshi purchasing various shampoo, makeup and, in the case of others, packs of green tea flavoured KitKats. It never used to be like this.

One last night in Shinjuku. Though my feet were weary I didn’t really want to go back. Just to soak myself in the neon excitement of Japan. I sat for a while by the window and watched as some lights were extinguished after 10pm, others waiting until after midnight. The new Hotel Gracery displayed messages and images on its otherwise blue lit side every half an hour, pachinko parlours flashed and the high resolution Yunika Vision screens showed clips from the Japanese billboard charts until after I finally went to sleep.

As always the same thoughts came into my head. A desire not to leave Japan and return to Australia, to stay long enough that every day wasn’t so precious that it had to be rushed. For quiet days spent locally absorbing the atmosphere, yet also more busy days for the many sights left unseen. And as ever, I must come back.

Filed under: