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  • Shona McCarthy

Dream Location: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum


(At Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum I took some bluetooth selfies of myself pretending to be a real early-Showa Period girl. It was so much fun! 2019.)

While I did get to go to Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, I wish I could have spent far more time there. If I were to return to Tokyo again, I would probably find a place to stay close to Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum so that I could visit it over and over again, spending days there, and taking many notes in my phone which I would turn into written pieces. I was probably more excited about going to see Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum than I was about going to Disneyland. Entry was only 400JPY, so it was cheaper ten fold.

The main excitement for me was being able to see some of the real life artifacts and locations that inspired Hayao Miyazaki in some of his animated works. For those who aren't familiar with his films, I suggest going to see My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Spirited Away (2001) and Ponyo (2008). These are some of the best loved animated works ever made, and so being able to visit a place that Miyazaki had seen was very special to me.

(A very old police box that had some old-fashioned bedding in it, just the way a policeman would have once stayed there. I looked inside the cupboards to see what would be there. There was a spare stool and an old-timey lamp. 2019.)

But what I didn't know was just how much I was really going to enjoy simply being there. I also didn't know that they close at 4:30 in March. I really should have looked more closely at their website, https://www.tatemonoen.jp. Since visitors are allowed to wander freely through many of the old houses and buildings that have been amassed and restored there, you are able to take many photos of the details in the architecture, and so it would be an ideal place for wearing anachronistic clothing and taking luscious selfies. But I saw tables in some of these old rooms, and I could picture myself sitting there with my laptop, simply writing and writing and writing. And I could imagine myself producing really good things in such an atmosphere.

(The fun of taking bluetooth selfies in Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. 2019.)

And the place is so beautifully atmospheric. I was visiting in the early spring, and so everything was crisp and fresh and beautifully lit by the sun. But at any time of year, I can still imagine it being delightful. The architecture that has been gathered there is not only carefully selected for how distinctive and historic they are. But they have also been beautifully maintained, so that you really feel as though you have travelled back in time. But more than that, the architecture isn't just anachronistic to you. The buildings come from so many different periods in Japanese history, they are also anachronistic to each other, and it shows. Yet, they are all laid out so that it really feels as though you are visiting a strange, old abandoned town. You are encouraged to feel this way, since some of the old shops have old props so you can see how they would have looked back when they were in operation. The buildings often also included fliers with information so that you could learn more about each building if you wanted.

(Pictures I took so that I could read more about the buildings I visited at home. 2019.)

It's a good idea to avoid visiting the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum on Mondays and Tuesdays, since these are days the park is often shut. Christmas week and the occasional Wednesday also seems to be closed to guests. So it is a good idea to check when the park is open before you go.

(I enjoyed taking many beautiful photos at Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. 2019.)

I have to confess that I didn't even get to see every single building in this museum. I didn't prioritise the more occidental ones since I wanted to experience more of traditional Japanese culture. But in retrospect, the houses that appeared to be Westernised were probably chosen because they were distinct in some way. I'll never know unless I go back one day.

So, not only do I highly recommend Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum as a tourist location, but I hope to return one day and spend a great deal more time there.

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