Looking for an inexpensive way to spend a neat day in Tokyo, like history, enjoy architecture, just want to chill out. Edo Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is the place. FIRST, put the "museum" in quotes, it is actually a huge park originally an Imperial Army Air Base located north of Musashi-Koganei on the Chuo Line west of Shinjuku. Subsequent to the war it was turned into a USAF Air base briefly and then turned over to the city as a park.
Starting in the late 60's when Japan turned with a vengence to tearing down its architectural heritage someone said lets save a little of it and move it to the park in Musashi-Koganei which no one ever visits. The result is a fantastic collection of original buildings mostly from the Taisho and early, early Showa eras.
Plan on spending all day getting there and walking through the park. I think it is bus # 33 about 260 yen from the north side of Musashi-Koganei Station, but it would not hurt to ask as English/romaji signage is minimal. It is a little too far to walk if you are then going to walk the entire park/museum without getting completely poohed out.
For me the highlights were the former residence of a prime minister of Japan, who was assinated in the violent pre-war politics of Japan, a super cute little house from Denen-Choufu one of Japan's first planned communities, and finally a three block long assembly of business from Taisho-era Tokyo. This was the short period from 1912-1923 when things western were in vogue, the time of ero, garish, grotesque nonsense, see Seidensecker's "Tokyo Rising" for details on that subject. This business district includes a huge old public bath house, drug store, neighborhood bar, rice store, miso shop, kitchen/housewares shop etc, etc. etc. Docents are available but I did not find any with much command of English.
Generally this park is not crowded, except during the cherry blossom season when the mile long park is awash in pink blossoms, blue tarps and rather drunk spectators for hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Food service is limited with a very small resturant at the entry hall which was originally built for an international exhibition in the mid-Showa period. There is a larger resturant of no distinction in the Taisho Era business district on the 2nd floor of a reproduction building. But there is lots of space to park on the grass or on a bench and have a picnic with food purchased at or near the station before boarding the bus.
For those with an interest in the not well known little features of Edo, the slow moving stream on the south side of the road which parallels the park on the south side is a section of the Tama Gawa Joshi (Tama River Canal) constructed during the late Edo or Meiji Era to bring water from the area between Ome and Tachikawa to the booming city of Tokyo. It eventually dumps into the Kanda River just west of Kanda Station.
Plan on spending the whole day, there is a small entry fee 600 yen I think, but well worth it and get ready to step back into a Tokyo that existed only briefly between the end of the 19th Century and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
Enjoy it -- we did.
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