Sights to See at the Edo-Tokyo Museum
Events at the Edo-Tokyo Museum

Tokyo wasn’t always the colossal city we see today, but it did start with something just as interesting. Edo, or Tokyo before becoming Tokyo, was a city brimming with energy and opportunity. The history of Edo’s transformation into Tokyo is culmination of many historical events, and words are surely not enough to narrate them all. That is exactly why the Edo Tokyo Museum (江戸東京博物館) is a must-see!

The Edo-Tokyo Museum was opened in 1993, and is a relatively new museum compared to others in the city. Inside is an exceptional permanent exhibit that ties together Edo and Tokyo through a series of artifacts, life-size replicas and miniature models. The intricate detail in the models immerse visitors into the world of Edo, and will make you feel as if you are a time-traveler experiencing the events firsthand! This one-of-a-kind museum gives locals an in-depth review of their own history, while giving tourists a new perspective of Tokyo and its story.

Sights to see at the Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo-Tokyo Museum’s permanent exhibition is divided into two areas: the Edo Zone and the Tokyo Zone. The two zones come together to tell the story of Edo’s transition into Tokyo. Here is an introduction to each of the zones:

The Edo Zone


The Edo town miniature model in the Edo Zone

The first area of the permanent exhibition, the Edo Zone, shows a distinguished display of Edo history and, in particular, of peasant life. The city of Edo, Tokyo’s predecessor, has a unique history of its rise and fall, and was the last era of the iconic samurai-spirited Japan. Under the Tokugawa shogunate’s military rule, Edo flourished into becoming one of the world’s greatest metropolises.

The Edo Zone features miniature replicas of the peasants’ town areas and feudal lord compounds, and even an extensive model to show the city structure that quite literally centered around the extravagant Edo Castle. Life-size models of peasant houses are a part of the exhibit as well, showing Japanese visitors how the Edo lifestyle inspired their lives today. Merchants played a significant role in the Edo sphere, as they were the start of a currency-based economy in Japan, and their lifestyles too are displayed through miniature and life-size models. Leisure and arts are featured as well, with many preserved books and paintings exhibited in the zone.

The Edo Zone comes to an end as the Edo era collapses in 1867, despite its success in replacing Kyoto as the de facto capital of Japan. Edo Japan shifts into a new era of westernization and ultimately, the “eastern capital” Tokyo is born.

The Tokyo Zone


Showa-style bathroom replica in the Tokyo Zone

The second half of the permanent exhibit is the Tokyo Zone. This area sheds light on the rise Tokyo (literally translating to “eastern capital”), starting from the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji Restoration was an era of change, which caused excitement along with struggles, both as consequences of westernization. With a focus on strengthening its military powers and boosting its economy, Japan experienced an intense Industrial Revolution.

With major events such as the Great Kanto Earthquake and the First World War, this era was a considerable turning point for Japan’s new economy and lifestyle. The Tokyo Zone presents a comprehensive telling of the Meiji Restoration and the early 1900s through words, artifacts and paintings.

Later in the Tokyo Zone, you can see how Tokyo rose into becoming the world’s biggest megalopolis after a span of struggles (mainly World War II). Post-war Tokyo is introduced and analyzed decade by decade from 1960 to 2000, showing the progress of Tokyo’s recovery and eventual prosperity. With a “Museum Laboratory” section at the end, you can have a hands-on experience with gadgets and items from the post-war years. The Tokyo Zone brings together the very beginnings of Tokyo and the Tokyo we know of today.

Other Exhibitions

Aside from the Permanent Exhibition, there is the Special Exhibition (first floor) and the Featured Exhibition (fifth floor). Both exhibitions last about 1~3 months, and highlight certain themes connecting to Edo or Tokyo. These exhibitions usually display artifacts and items that are relevant or rare. Although these exhibits charge an extra cost, it is surely worth a visit if you find any of the themes or exhibits intriguing.

Events at the Edo-Tokyo Museum

Summer Night Museum (July to August)

A special event/promotion in the summer is the Summer Night Museum. On Fridays from mid-July to mid-August, the Edo-Tokyo museum is open until 9PM. On top of that, after 5:30PM, admission is free for all students with a valid ID (regardless of nationality)! Enjoy a special night at the Edo Tokyo museum during the summer.

Traditional Culture Experience Program for Foreign Visitors (Year-round)

Although all other events held are entirely in Japanese, this event is specially programmed for foreign visitors. With an English-speaking guide, this event provides a 30-minute hands-on cultural activity. You can watch (and try!) Edo-style fun and games, such as wazuma (traditional magic tricks), kamikiri (improvised paper cutting) and kyokugei (traditional acrobatic tricks). This event is free of charge, and you can find dates and times on Edo Tokyo Museum’s official website.

Museum Talk (Year-Round)

(This event is only held in Japanese.)
The Museum Talk is a popular museum-guidance event. The guidance is free of charge, and you get an in-depth tour of the permanent exhibit by a curator. This event is every Friday starting at 4PM.

Access to Edo Tokyo Museum

Nearest station: Ryogoku Station (JR Chuo-Sobu Line JB21, Toei Oedo Line E12)

From Shinjuku Station

【Shinjuku Sta.】JR Chuo-Sobu Line / for Tsudanuma
→ 【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about a 5-minute walk

From Tokyo Station

【Tokyo Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shinjuku
→ 【Yoyogi Sta.】Chuo Sobu Line Local Service / for Tsudanuma
→ 【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about a 5-minute walk

From Narita Airport

【Narita Airport Sta.】Skyliner / for Keisei Ueno
→ 【Nippori Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Ueno
→ 【Akihabara Sta.】JR Chuo-Sobu Line Local Service / for Chiba
→ 【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about a 5-minute walk

From Haneda Airport

【Haneda Airport Sta.】Tokyo Monorail Airport Express Line / for Hamamatsucho
→ 【Hamamatsucho Sta.】JR Keihin Tohoku Rapid Line / for Omiya
→ 【Akihabara Sta.】JR Chuo-Sobu Line Local Service / for Chiba
→ 【Ryogoku Sta.】from the West Exit → about a 5-minute walk

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