For every entry in the JSOC Blog Matsuri on the topic of secret Japan, there will be someone to claim that they’ve known about whatever is being discussed for years. Of course they they’ve always known about the udon shop inside the crater of Mt Fuji that’s guarded by a six-headed tanuki. Which is simply not true — ask any Japanese person where the six-headed tanuki can be found and they’ll refuse to answer, backing away slowly. That’s how secret it is.
So what qualifies Edo Tokyo Tatemonoen (Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum) to be described as a part of ‘secret Japan’? Well, it’s considered far enough away from the train stations surrounding it, all of which are outside the sacred Yamanote ring of Tokyo, that even the official website suggests you catch a bus. And let’s face it, a guidebook that covers Harajuku, Roppongi and Koganei isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Inside the park, you’ll find historic buildings that have been deconstructed and rebuilt in order to preserve them. These range from a traditional farm house from the end of the Edo Era (1603 – 1868) to modern residences from the 1940s. Honestly, nothing prepares you for the feeling of being a thousand miles from “home” (or something like it) and realizing your grandmother used that kind of washing machine.
My favourite area is the street from very early in the Showa Era (1926 – 1989), with a florist, a soy sauce merchant, a bar and many other shops. The stationers is lined with calligraphy brushes and the florists is decorated in modern white tiles and filled with plastic flowers. All the shop interiors have been recreated and it’s a great opportunity to take a few photographs. At the end nearest to the entrance there’s a stand selling 2010-style takoyaki and icecream, so you can sit outdoors and take in the view for a while. You can also go into an udon restaurant which sells real udon for 600 yen. No tanuki, six-headed or otherwise, need be harmed.
Entry won’t cost more than 400 yen and there are discounts if you’re over 65 or studying at university.
April to September, open from 9.30am to 5.30pm.
October to March, open from 9.30am to 4.30pm
The park is closed on Mondays and over the New Year holidays.
Rules: Photography is forbidden in the indoor museum, the Mitsui Hachirouemon storehouse and in the Mitsui family chapel on the second floor. You can’t sketch or use tripods inside buildings or where you might cause a disturbance.