An absolute gem, the Meiji-Mura is an open-air museum preserving dozens of Meji Era (1896-1912) Japanese buildings including schools, hotels, prisons, and even a lighthouse. Many of these buildings were strongly influenced by Western architecture and building materials. It's kind of like Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum, only much more spread out around Lake Iruka. There are costumed guides, vintage transportation, and ubiquitous food and gift shops.
The buildings are fairly spread out around well-signed paths. It's worth the upgrade to the ticket that includes rides on the vintage streetcars, steam locomotive, etc. (2200 yen versus 1600 for admission only); you'll do A LOT of walking otherwise.
There's an English-language brochure available at the main gate, and most of the signs feature English as well as Japanese (there's also a serviceable little English-language guide for 1000 yen in the main gift shop). I visited on a particular day since I’d read there was to be a Christmas handbell concert in the cathedral. The handbell concert was superb and highly emotional since it was my first Christmas away from home in Japan; I only wish that the girls' junior high handbell choir had a CD available for purchase!!
Plan on spending at least half a day here, more if you really take your time exploring the various houses and exhibits.
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