Tokyo 2014 – Museums

by Diane on 16/09/2014

We love museums. Give me an interesting exhibition and I’ll be a happy camper on holiday. So obviously we checked out quite a few museums in Tokyo.

Ghibli museum

Everyone knows Studio Ghibli, right? They’re a Japanese animation studio, famous for movies such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. And they have a museum, hurrah!

Logo of the Ghibli museum.

You need to plan a visit to the Ghibli museum well in advance. In fact, it’s so popular that you need to purchase your tickets about 3 months before you want to go. In New Zealand you can get your tickets through JTB Global Marketing & Travel.

The museum is very, very awesome – it’s a magical place! You can get a sneak peek into a drawing room, get to see how hand-drawn movies are being made and how they make special effects without computers. There’s also a little movie theatre where they show a short film that can’t be seen anywhere else.

All explanations are in Japanese only, but most displays are pretty self-explaining. If we’ll ever plan a visit again, I’ll watch all Ghibli movies before we leave NZ though – it would have been probably even more awesome if we had recognised all the characters that were showcased.

Fujiko-F-Fujio museum

Those of you who don’t know who Fujiko-F-Fujio is may have heard of Doraemon, the robot cat from the future. Fujiko-F-Fujio is the artist who invented Doraemon! Which means that the Fujiko-F-Fujio museum is full of all things Doraemon and friends. How awesome is that?

Diane and Kai - photo taken at a photo booth, decorated with Doraemon themed stickers.

Photo booth – unleashing our creativity!

The Fujiko-F-Fujio museum requires you to pre-purchase tickets just like the Ghibli museum, but they don’t need to be bought months in advance. We bought our tickets the night before we actually went there. The act of purchasing tickets can be quite challenging though. You need to go to a Lawson convenience store, where they have a ticket machine. You choose the day and a time slot when you want to go and type in your name and contact details. Super easy process – if you can read and write in kanji! Kai was lucky – our local Lawson at the Shimokitazawa train station had someone who spoke good English on staff when we wanted to get our tickets. The lovely person just sorted it all out for us.

If you like Doraemon, the museum is for you. If you LOVE Doraemon (like I do), this place will be paradise for you! The museum is divided into different exhibition spaces, and each of them is awesome by itself. You can learn about Fujiko-F-Fujio and his life, there’s everything about Doraemon and his friends, there’s a manga corner for chilling out and reading (Doraemon books, obviously), and again there’s a theatre that shows a special Doraemon episode. The museum provides an audio guide for free, which means not missing out on additional information.

We even had lunch – Doraemon themed obviously – at the museum. What a great place! The museum is in Kawasaki-city, which is a bit outside of Tokyo, but easy to reach by train. From the train station a Doraemon bus goes straight to the museum. There’s also additional Doraemon art work around the train station!

Edo Tokyo museum

A great place to learn about the history of Tokyo is the Edo-Tokyo museum.

There aren’t very many original pieces (there isn’t too much left from the Edo era – fires, wars and the Great Kantō earthquake took their toll), but the museum is filled with lots of really good replica. The story of Edo-Tokyo is so well told, that it doesn’t really matter that most of the exhibits are only there to prove a point.

My favourite exhibit was a display that showed the steps involved in woodblock painting. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of it, but you can find it (and a much more in depth report on the museum) at A MODERN GIRL / モダンガール.

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

The Edo-Tokyo museum has some kind of outdoor branch. It was the first time we had to use a bus for public transport, and we didn’t quite get how the payment system worked. The bus driver tried to explain it to us by waving his arms, and giving a friendly speech in Japanese, with no success. He then made an announcement to every passenger, and a friendly young woman raised her hand. Turns out that the driver had asked if anyone was going to the museum and could take the helpless tourists under their wings. A bit humiliating, but it did the trick. We eventually got there.

Shiny copper kettles hanging from the ceiling in a shop building.

Shiny kettles in a shop.

Key to the museum is a collection of original houses from the Edo era, conveniently located together in a nice park. They have been brought together in an effort to reconstruct, preserve and exhibit historical buildings of cultural value. A lot of buildings can  be viewed from the inside, and some building have little demonstrations going on inside to allow visitors to dive deep into life during the Edo era. We saw how the fireplace inside a house contributed to insects not settling in the roof, and we drank salty cherry blossom tea. Yum.

Before you get to the actual buildings though, you need to make sure not to miss the indoor exhibition, which showed special display on architecture in Ghibli movies when we visited. Again, I should have really, really watched all Ghibli movies before we went to Tokyo!


We had already been to Miraikan, the national museum of emerging science and innovation. But we had to go back for a special exhibition this time: ‘Toilet – Human waste & earth’s future‘. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Advertisement for the special exhibition at Miraikan.

Special exhibition advertising space.

And it was really super interesting. We learnt heaps about human versus animal poo, we saw how the Japanese sewage system works and what perfectly healthy poo should look like. Very reassuring… :-)

The exhibition also covered topics like emergency toilets (for earthquakes or tsunamis for example), new solutions for disposing the poo of elderlies, and the history of human waste management. It ended with a group of toilets singing a song. I can only recommend this exhibition. It’s still on for a couple more weeks. For more photos from the exhibition see the Tokyo Weekender.

Overall we had an awesome time at every museum we visited. There wasn’t a single disappointment amongst them, I can highly recommend them all.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

A Modern Girl September 18, 2014 at 5:05 am

Fun post–thanks for the mention!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: