Sunday, 12 February 2017

Step Back in Time - Nihon Minkaen Folk House museum

First of all, sorry for the long break.  I took a couple of months off of visiting places for the blog.  Work got a little crazy busy and also my sister and her partner came to visit around Christmas time so I spent some nice times showing them around My Japan.  Also, during that period, the domain name lapsed and I hadn't realised it.  Luckily no-one else snapped it up and I was able to get back on line!!

Having said that, I am back and already have things to write about!!  Hang on for another year of exploring Tokyo and Japan and finding more hidden gems.

People who regularly read my blog know that I love Japanese traditional architecture and I am always on the lookout for places to visit to enjoy it.  I have visited places near and far to enjoy it including Gujo Hachiman, Hida Takayama, Shirakawago, Magome and Tsumago, Narai, Shibamata and Kawagoe to name but a few.  Almost one year ago I visited an outdoor museum, the Tokyo Edo Open Air Museum (blog posts for which you can find here and here) and at the time, one of my old workmates, Jason, recommended another, similar place to go and visit, Nihon Minkaen.  I had previously tried to head there on a Monday a couple of months ago only to find it closed (Apparently a lot of museums are not open on Mondays in Japan).  I recently had another free day (which was not a Monday!) and decided to head there again for a look.

Nihon Minkaen opened in 1965 in Kawasaki, only 30 minutes from Shinjuku on the Odakyu line.  It, as with the Tokyo Edo Open Air Museum, opened to preserve the history and the beauty that traditional Japanese architecture is renowned for.  As opposed to the Tokyo Edo Open Air Museum which showcases a broad range of Japanese architectural styles over the years, Nihon Minkaen displays old Folk houses from around Japan.  It displays some of the beautiful Gasshou Zukuri style houses that are typical of eastern Japan as well as other farm houses and merchant houses (the number of exhibits currently sits at 25).

I arrived at Mukogaoka-yuen station 



and set off on the short 20 minute walk from the station to nearby Ikuta Ryokuchi Park where the museum is located.  Stepping straight inside, I grabbed a ticket and went through to the indoor area which has some displays showing and talking about various regional architectural styles.







As you can see from the last photo, there is plenty of information in English both at the displays and also at the front counter where you get your ticket.

Moving through this area I stepped outside to the main section and immediately felt a surge of excitement as I could see the first of the buildings just ahead.  There is a path to follow that winds its way through all of the exhibitions.  Being that it is located in a park, you are surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature which only adds to the experience!

First up was a large early 19th century house that had originally been located in Fukushima prefecture which is located about 240km north of Tokyo.



Very nice!

The walk through the area was really nice and while I won't show you all of the buildings, I will show you a selection of them.  While I was there, there was some reconstruction of the pathway that you follow and also some reconstruction of one of the exhibits so some of the nostalgia is interrupted by construction equipment.

This next one is a lovely Gasshou style farmhouse built in the early 18th century which was originally located in Toyama prefecture on the Sea of Japan east coast of Japan.



This style of architecture is distinctively identified by its steep sloping thatched roof.  This area of Japan is renowned for its heavy winter snowfall (some of the heaviest in the world) and the steep roof helps the snow slide off.

This next farm house was built in the late 18th century and it's original location was Yamagata prefecture, almost 300km north of Tokyo



The epitome of rustic, don't you think?

Next up, a village headman's house that was built in the late 17th century.  This one did not have to be relocated very far at all as it was originally located in Kawasaki city, where the museum is also located.



This next one was also originally located in Kawasaki and is a small shrine that was built in 1863.



Next up, another village headman's house built in the late 17th century from nearby Kanagawa prefecture.



I just love the old wood used in all of these buildings.  Of course you would have been in a bit of trouble had a fire broken out, but the the use of something as natural as wood gives all of the buildings a wonderful earthy look!

This next grand building was originally located in Shirakawago, a place famous for the Gasshou Zukuri style of building.  It was originally a farmhouse before being moved in 1958 to near Kawasaki station where it was used as a traditional Japanese restaurant.  It was subsequently move to the museum in 1970 and is currently used as a soba restaurant that feeds the museum visitors.  Talk about interactive displays!



I will mention here that you are able to enter all of the houses to see what the interiors look like.  While you may not be able to walk through the entirety of the house, you can see what some of the rooms in each look like.







A real glimpse into the past.  Life was very different!

Wandering around such a beautiful and historic place was a damn good way to spend an afternoon.  It was nice and quiet and peaceful.  The surrounding park was shielding the sounds of the city outside and it felt like a calm, serene hideaway hidden in the middle of metropolis.







Before too long, it was time to step out of the cocoon and back into reality.  Thoroughly satisfied I made my way back to the station amongst the cacophony of city noise.  Yes, I had enjoyed those last couple of hours......

I recommend putting aside a good couple of hours to leisurely stroll around the museum and to fully enjoy it.  Obviously, different seasons will present different looks, vibrant green in summer and beautiful reds and yellows in autumn, but it is definitely worth a look in any season.

Admission cost: Adults - 500 yen
                          Students - 300 yen
                          Junior High School students and younger - free

Hours: March - October - 9:30am - 5pm
            November - February  - 9:30am - 4:30pm
Official website:  http://english.nihonminkaen.jp/

Thanks for reading!  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did visiting it and I hope you also get the chance to visit at some stage int he future.

Please leave me a message below and sign up for email updates when I upload a new post, or bookmark the page and I hope to see you back here soon!  Until next time, bye!