MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Superb Shitamachi Museum in Ueno Park Recreates Historic Japan

One of our best museum visits happened with the Shitamachi Museum, which, although small, kept things perfectly formed with a re-creation of typical Shitamachi life in the Meiji and Taisho periods of Japan.

image

We could have whizzed around the place quickly because of the size, but we took our time as the authentic displays really captured our attention.

Ground Floor Shitamachi Recreations

The ground floor of the the Shitamachi Museum exhibits three life-sized interiors: a merchant house for Japanese wooden clog thongs, a cheap sweets shop and a coppersmith's workshop and living quarters.

The last two were my favourite, combining the two, extremely small tenement houses for two families back to back.

Shitamachi Sweet Shop

The sweet shop was for a mother and daughter family and displayed an assortment of cheap sweets and rice crackers, together with toys, games and other playthings. This was naturally a place for children to gather, play, chat and fight and therefore learn the ways of the world, which they weren't taught at school.

image

image

Through an open doorway beside the display is the living quarters of the pair.

image

image

Shitamachi Coppersmith's Workshop

Next door lies the coppersmith's workshop, which collects tools of his trade for display.

image

Again, an open doorway leads to his living quarters which he would share with his wife.

image

A sake serving set is part of the scene, with which the tired coppersmith would be served sake by his wife to take away his day's fatigue.

image

Inari Shrine

In one corner, there's also a miniature Inari Shrine.

image

image

Next to the shrine are some "Omikuji" - fortune telling oracle paper that you draw by first shaking and dispensing a numbered stick from a container.

image

Check out the video below for a little tour of the ground floor:



Upper Floor Shitamachi Toys and Displays

In the upper floor of the museum, there are several sections. There are more interior scenes - a public bath entrance, a kitchen and living quarters, and finally what appears to be a restaurant area, with table and bench sets. Here, there are a few old Japanese puzzles that visitors can try.

image

image

image

We also tried on a pair of Japanese wooden clogs.

image

image

Nearby, there is also a large table full of retro toys that visitors can also play - most of which I remember from my own childhood. These scenes and areas are joined by smaller displays of photos, documents and other museum items which provide more historic context.

image

Watch this video below to see some of the upper floor:



Shitamachi Lifestyle

Neighbours in Shitamachi terraced houses shared a single well for water and each of the apartments were only separated by a thin wall panel, hence inhabitants could rarely keep their lives private.

Apparently, this built up a mutual understanding between people in the community, fostering co-operation.

With the modern day Shitamachi Museum, all the displays shown inside the sets are actually gifts from the public, and were used in real life by people in the Taisho period. The displays are complemented by free information sheets (in English) which provide more detail).

With the co-operative spirit of people at the time and of the public contributions today, the Shitamachi Museum left us with a glow of appreciation for human nature which was probably helped by its intimate size.

image

More of our photos of the Shitamachi Museum on Flickr


This entry posted in : Attractions. History. Japan. Tourism.

If you found this post interesting, connect with us on Twitter and Facebook!
  Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

← Previous Entry Next Entry →