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Best History Museums in Tokyo

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The Tokyo National Museum displays a bevy of sculptures, paintings, calligraphy, archaeological objects and other decorative arts. Broadly divided into Japanese, Chinese and Korean forms, the museum's collections are nothing short of artistic preservation of Asian history and culture. Exhibitions, lectures and gallery talks are held regularly, so visitors can gain access to some valuable information about the world's largest continent. The museum also stores historical documents dating back to the 10th and 11th Centuries.

Ever wondered how Japanese houses and shops looked decades ago? Well, here is your chance to gain knowledge. Much of Tokyo's architectural heritage had been destroyed in the Great Kanto earthquake and the World War II bombings. In order to retrieve its past, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government established the Tatemono-en (open air architectural museum) as part of the Edo-Tokyo museum in 1993. The museum has 27 buildings (with plans for four more) that run along small streets and span architectural time-lines from the mid-Edo period through the mid-Showa. Do not miss the Tsunashima family's thatched-roof farmhouse, the old post box, the top of the watchtower from the Ueno Fire Station and the bricks from Ginza Brick Town. Walk through the streets and take history lessons! Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum closes every Monday (When Monday is a national holiday, closes on the following day.)

Both history and architecture buffs will appreciate the very contemporary building balanced on its landmark, gigantic pillars. Set in a stadium-sized expanse, a model of Nihonbashi (Japan's premier bridge) separates feudal Tokyo (Edo) from modern Tokyo (since 1868). In the permanent exhibition area, you will find original documents of the Edo era. Nostalgic aspects of everyday life are depicted to scale without the restriction of display cases. Ongoing enactments of various folk arts and crafts bring Japan's rich cultural traditions to life. Do not miss the models of the Edo Castle and the Kabuki Theater. See the website for visitor information and the event calendar.

The Advertising Museum Tokyo is the only museum dedicated to promoting advertising and marketing studies. Here there are two kinds of exhibitions. The first one is a special exhibition introducing many award-wining advertisements from all over the world. The second one is a permanent exhibition where you can learn about the history of advertisement from the edo era (starting in 1603) to the present in Japan. Artworks in special exhibitions will be changed about 12 times per year, so if you wish to go there, please check the exhibition schedule on the website.

For an aesthetic Japanese experience, visit this museum to admire some lovely examples of calligraphy. A few pieces are shown at a time, as the exhibits are changed seasonally. The main collection consists of more than 3,000 pieces, including works of Hujiwarano-Teika (one of the oldest and most famous poets in Japan). Here you can see not only calligraphy, but also calligraphic poems.

A former head of Yamatane Securities, Taneji Yamazaki, amassed a collection of about 1,500 Meiji period paintings. Among the artists represented are Kokei Kobayashi, Kagaku Murakami, Seiho Takeuchi, Ryushi Kawabata and Hyakusui Hirafuku. The setting is modern, Japanese-style, and includes a rock garden, library and tearoom. Admission fee is applicable for visitors above 15 years of age. Handicapped visitors get a discount.

Along with Nikon and Canon, Fujifilm is one of the Japanese photo industry's heavy-hitters. Fujifilm Square, located in Roppongi and dedicated to all things Fuji, is a great place to spend some time alone, with friends or with the family. The cool, modern complex centers around photography, in which Fuji has been involved for 50 years, but also exhibits the other products that involve Fujifilm, like healthcare or lifestyle improvement. Whether you want to pop into a free gallery, buy a limited edition print, rub some newly-developed emollient into your skin, or learn about Fujifilm's history, it can all be accomplished with just one trip to the impressive Fujifilm Square!

Since its opening in 1999, the National Showa Memorial Museum collects, preserves, and exhibits materials related to the early Showa era (from 1935 to around 1955). Here you can learn about what peoples' lives were like during that time period. There is also an audio visual room and a library, where you can read, watch, and listen to various materials.

The Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage is located in Koto-ku, which is the place that suffered the most serious damage from the Tokyo air raids. This museum displays many pieces of history from the war, including a model of an incendiary bomb used in the war, the belongings of bombing victims, and the U.S. Army's report about the Tokyo air raid. Besides these materials, the museum sometimes holds special events. This museum gives you an opportunity to contemplate the fragility of war and peace.

In 1950, the Oji Paper Manufacturing Company established this museum to display its impressive collection of paper and paper-related items. Separate exhibits show the handicraft of origami, an early apparatus for making paper and a piece of papyrus from Egypt. Toys, castles and clothing are exhibited. The facility includes a library with an extensive number of books on the art of producing paper.

Nestled on the second floor of the JIC (Japan Interior Center) Building, is a miscellaneous collection of Japanese furniture, mainly from the Edo period. But there is more--where else can one see merchant, medicine and stair chests sharing a room with 18th century American colonial furniture? Look for an example of a wheeled chest used to transport belongings in a hurry during one of Tokyo's fires. Notorious for blocking the main escape routes, these chests were banned from the city. Furniture in miniature is also on view here.

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