If you've ever traveled by boat up the Sumida River to Asakusa, you probably caught a glimpse of this huge, strange-looking museum. The building is actually modeled after a traditional warehouse with elevated floors. If you haven't visited it yet, make sure that you do!
The Edo-Tokyo Museum, as the name indictes, is all about the history and culture of Tokyo (once called 'Edo'). The exhibitions are excellent, and most are labeled in English. Many even have lengthy explanations.
What makes this museum so special is that it combines regular exhibits with lots of life-sized recreations; elaborate models, and a number of 'hands-on' exhibits.
Upon purchasing your ticket outside on the main (3rd floor) terrace, take the escalators up to the 5th floor. As soon as you enter the permanent exhibition space, you must walk across a replica of the original Nihonbashi (bridge). Looking down from the bridge, visitors can see life-sized replicas of a traditional Japanese theater and one of Tokyo's first Western style buildings. It is all quite impressive.
Across the bridge is 'The Edo Zone', with miniture recreations of Edo Castle and the city plan of Edo (and, of course, much more). Downstairs, 'The Edo Zone' continues with topics like: commerce, culture, daily living, amusement quarters,...
Also downstairs is 'The Tokyo Zone' which focuses on the changes that the city underwent during the 1900's - topics include: the industrial revolution, the Great Kanto Earthquake, Air raids and black markets,...
Keep an eye out for special exhibitions as well. If it is on the 5th floor, there is no extra charge. But if it is on the first floor, visitors must pay extra.
There are a number of restaurants and cafes within the museum grounds, but re-entry to the museum on the day of purchase is also ok (but make sure you get a 're-entry' ticket before you exit). I recommend trying one of the local 'chanko-nabe' restaurants nearby. The food of Sumo wrestlers, it is a very hearty and delicious stew. Many places offer a lunch serving for around 1000 yen.
If you are interested in a guide, portable English audio equipment is free (with a 1000 yen refundable deposit) or try one of the volunteer English guides. It is best to call ahead and make a reservation or they might not be available.
If I had to recommend only one museum to foreigners visiting Tokyo, this would be my choice. Even for those with short stays, it is a great way to familiarize oneself with this great city. For those with a bit of time, expect to spend at least half a day here.
Hours of Operation: 9:30 - 17:30, Saturday 9:30 - 19:30.
Closed on Mondays except during Sumo tournaments in the Kokugi-kan. When Monday is a holiday, closed the next day. Also closed from December 28 to January 1.
Admission: Adults: 600 yen, University students: 480 yen, Jr. high and high school students: 300 yen, and adults over 65: 300 yen. *There are discounts for groups of 20 or more.
**Elementary school children and younger are free. Jr. high & high school students who are residents of Tokyo are also free.
Address: 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku 130-0015. Just outside Ryogoku Station.
Paid parking is available.
**Free entry with Grutt Pass 2007 (#39), + discount ticket for special exhibitions.