National Museum of Japanese History
Home to more than 200,000 artifacts and displays of historical and cultural importance, the National Museum of Japanese History is located near Sakura Station in Chiba. Open from 9:30am to 4:30pm in the winter (5pm from March to September; closed on Mondays and New Year), the museum is a great introduction to Japanese history from a cultural viewpoint. More information can be found at the museum’s website. Highly affordable, the museum is well-worth a visit.
The vast collection of Japanese culture varies from calligraphy to folklore. The special exhibit for November is calligraphy and each section of the gallery greets visitors with a brief summary in English. Paperwork exchanged in communities and works of art accompanying formal letters are two of the many types of calligraphy on display.
The folklore branch in Gallery 4 was greatly entertaining and educational. The exhibit begins with a reproduction of Mitsukoshi department store and a supermarket, both displaying New Year’s special traditional cuisine. Also shown are prefectural goods, the interior of a home (including a refrigerator loaded with today’s popular products), and interactive displays of faraway regions like Hokkaido, Yakushima, and Okinawa. The entire gallery, completed in March 2013, is well designed and eye-catching.
As visitors follow the exhibit, they are shown media throughout the years, represented through products, magazines, and personal hygiene products. One interesting display shows the changing “ideal body” over the course of the last few decades. From there, visitors move onto the mythological creature wing, which features giant replicas of ancient folklore animals and interactive displays to learn more about them.
In the next area, visitors can learn about traditional customs for reducing anxiety through prayer and belief. Reproductions of festival displays large enough to fill the exhibition room are a remarkable sight. For those who have limited time to see live ceremonies or festivals, this museum is a great summary of Japan’s many traditional rituals.
As the gallery comes to a close, visitors walk through an agricultural goods area, which includes a traditional house interior that can be explored by removing ones shoes and entering. When all is said and done, this gallery in particular is worth visiting the museum. Set aside time to really explore this vibrant, engaging area, which is like a theme park of education.
Before leaving the museum, stop by the popular restaurant. Specializing in brown rice and curry, its affordable meals are tasty, too. The museum also offers a gift shop, outdoor patio, and good assistance to visitors. From the exit, visitors can take a bus to JR Sakura Station or wander around the grounds, where a large Buddha sits in a stone wall on the path to the museum.
While in the old castle-town of Sakura, take a look at Samurai Residence Street, which contains Kawahara House, a Designated Tangible Cultural Property and the older samurai family house remaining in the city.
[posted by Nadia]