This collection of culturally important buildings, moved from their original locations in Japan and preserved in a park in Tokyo, gives us a glimpse into time periods from the Edo era (1603-1868) through to the early Showa era (1926-1945). Thirty buildings have taken up residence here over the past two decades, and each one is like a giant treasure box, filled with trinkets, memories and undiscovered gems. If their walls could talk, we can only imagine the stories they would tell. Come with us as we take you through the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Musuem and stop by some of the most interesting buildings Japan has ever seen.

The Visitor Centre

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This building, originally known as the “Koukaden”, was constructed in front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in 1940 and moved here a year later. It was built as a temporary hall for the ceremony to celebrate the 2,600-year anniversary of the founding of Japan. According to the legend of Japan, the country was founded in 660 BC by the Emperor Jimmu, who was believed to be a descendant of the Sun goddess.

Manseibashi Koban

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This was once the Suda-cho (Suda Town) local police box, originally located near Manseibashi in Kanda. It was damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 but it’s since been restored to its original design.

Maruni Shoten

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This distinctive building was once a general store, built during the Showa period. The facade is decorated with a series of small copper plates, cleverly joined together to give it a unique appearance. Inside the store you can see items from the 1930s, taking us back to life in pre-World War II Japan.

Mitsui Hachirouemon-tei

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In the late Edo period, the Mitsui family was the richest family in Japan, eventually growing to become one of the biggest financial conglomerates in Japanese history. Today, it remains one of the largest publicly traded companies in the world.

This building was the World War II residence of the family’s eldest son, Baron Takakimi Mitsui (1895-1992), also known as Mitsui Hachirouemon, who was the head of the company for some time. The building suffered extensive fire damage during the war, but was restored using materials from other Mitsui houses around Japan. It was relocated here in 1996.

Tsunashima House (farmer’s residence)

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This open plan, thatched roof home was originally located atop a plateau overlooking the Tamagawa, the river that runs between Tokyo and Kanagawa. Inside the Edo-period building, you can sit by a sunken hearth and check out traditional farming tools and equipment.

Kagi-ya (tavern)

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Said to have been built in 1896, this once-bustling izakaya (tavern) is now only open a few days a year. On these days, you can get hot sake and some nibbles for 500 yen (US$4.90).

Kodakara-yu (bathhouse)

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In Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, much of the action is set around the “Yu-ya” bathhouse. Miyazaki drew inspiration from a number of bathhouses to create the fantastical one in the movie, but it’s said that the colour and light in the bathing area most resembles the baths here at Kodakara-yu.

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Originally built in Tokyo in 1929, there’s no running water here now but you’re free to climb in and out of the baths. And bathe in the ambience.

Takahashi Korekiyo Residence


Korekiyo Takahashi was a Japanese Statesman and the 20th Prime Minister of Japan. He was assassinated in this very building in 1936.


It’s quite poignant that the second floor of the building is represented in the scene where Chihiro helps a bleeding Haku escape from his attackers.


The Street-car

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No, it’s not a building but we couldn’t resist making a stop at the street-car sitting here in the complex! A 1962 beauty, we can imagine it starting up at night, lights flickering as it magically transports Chihiro from the park and through the land of Spirited Away.

For a look at more of the park and its buildings, check out the videos below:

Source: Line Corporation

Images: Wikimedia Commons Pachuca33 Zenekon Tea Time Diary