Home » A photographer’s guide to the Edo-Tokyo Museum

A photographer’s guide to the Edo-Tokyo Museum

As a big fan of Tokyo, I love the Edo-Tokyo Museum.  The displays cover many hundreds of years of the city’s history.  It starts with Ieyasu Tokugawa entering a small fishing village.  And it ends with a city that became an economic powerhouse in the late twentieth century.  If you are a history lover, this place is a must-see.

Sukeroku stage with kabuki display

While you walk to the building from the station, you`ll notice the unique architecture.  The inspiration for the design came from Japan’s old elevated grain storehouses.  But, it has a very futuristic feel to it. Some people say it looks like a giant Gundam robot or something out of Star Wars.

Samurai armor at Edo-Tokyo Museum

Once you get your ticket, head up to the sixth floor.  That is where the entrance is, and it is fabulous.  A replica of the first Nihonbashi Bridge will be in front of you.  Walking over that will take you into the museum.  

From the middle of the bridge, look down.  Under you will be the Nakamura-za kabuki theatre.  Once on the other side, you’ll have two zones to explore.

The first one is the Edo Zone.  This area deals with the city’s history from medieval times to the early modern.  Being a big fan of Japanese history, I have to admit that I favor this one as I love the Tokugawa period.  It has everything the Japanese history lover needs.  There are swords, armor, replicas of houses, boats, scale models, and bookshops!  And the dioramas are amazing, so detailed.

replica Asahi Newspaper building at Edo-Tokyo Museum

Modern Tokyo will be in the second.  Exhibits that show the city’s development fill it.  They go into great detail about the early and middle parts of the twentieth century.  They are from:

  • World War 2
  • the postwar recovery
  • 1964 Olympics
  • social changes.  

For me, the exhibits from the 1990s were fascinating.  It was fun seeing stuff from when I first arrived in the country.  There are old computers, games, and school uniforms.  They brought back some terrific memories.

Japanese sword exhibit at Edo-Tokyo Museum

You can also see special exhibits.  These change every few months.  They have been about ghosts, art, literature, and even weapons.  An extra ticket used to be needed, but not anymore.  I appreciated that when I went!

If you need help finding your way through the exhibits in a little more detail, you can book a volunteer guide.  The languages available are English, Chinese, French, German, Korean, Spanish, and Russian.  But, due to their limited number, it would be a good idea to book a guide before you visit.  To be honest, I haven’t done a full tour with them, but I have seen them working, and they seem very knowledgeable.  

Ford Model A 4 door sedan at Edo-Tokyo Museum

You can also rent an audio headset.  They are available at the ticket counter on the first floor.  You need to pay a (refundable) deposit.

The Edo-Tokyo Museum is a great place to visit with so much on display. You could spend many, many hours there learning about the city’s history. If you want to get more detailed information about the museum, please look at its website.

flame-shaped Jomon pottery

A brief history of the museum

The museum opened in 1993 and was the first to be dedicated to Tokyo.  Kiyonori Kikutake, the architect, was responsible for the design.   As mentioned earlier, he based it on a traditional rice storehouse (takayuka-shiki style).  And for people who love trivia, it is the same height as Edo Castle, 62.2 meters!

Suzuki Shun’ich, a governor of Tokyo in the 1980s, first imagined it.  Ryogoku was chosen as the ukiyo-e painter Katsushika Hokusai was born there.  Edo culture was born and flourished there.  It was a great choice.

B-29 50 cal machine gun at Edo-Tokyo Museum

What’s at Edo-Tokyo Museum?

What can I say?  There is no way I can write a complete list.  Everything is about the development of Tokyo.  Don’t go expecting a samurai museum.  Yes, some swords and armor are there, but that is not the focus. 

Photography at the museum

Taking a camera is no problem.   The areas in which you can’t use them are marked.  But, don’t worry, there aren’t many of those.  Luckily, you can use flashes in some areas.  That’s nice unless you are shooting through glass windows.

As for problems, the two big ones are available light and people.  Some exhibits can be rather dark.  Others will have lights reflected in them, which can be ugly.  And on some days, the museum can get quite crowded.  That can be annoying in some cases (i.e., you might have to wait a long time to get your picture).

Where is the Edo-Tokyo museum?

The museum is very close to Ryogoku station on the JR Sobu Line.  If you use the Oedo line, leave that station (also named Ryokgoku) via the A3 or A4 exits.  Here is a Google map:

Opening hours

<<Temporarily closed>>

The Edo-Tokyo Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.  On Saturdays, it is open till 7:30 pm.  You can buy tickets up to 30 minutes before closing.  If there is a public holiday on a Monday, the museum will open and close the following day.

The museum closes over the New Year period, from December 25 to January 1.

Admission costs

General admission is 600 yen.

western-style house at Edo-Tokyo Museum

Other photo spots in the area

There is quite a bit, and you won’t have to walk far.  They include:

Wrapping Up

The museum is fabulous.  If you have any interest in the city, you should visit it.  There aren’t any breathtaking photos to take there.  But, if you want to document your life in/visit to Tokyo, you should go at least once.

bridge model

Just one note!  Upon entrance, there are a few hurdles to jump through due to coronavirus.  You need to go through a temperature check and handwash.  I don’t think it is anything intrusive and is over quickly. You can see the Edo-Tokyo Museum’s website here. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

3 thoughts on “A photographer’s guide to the Edo-Tokyo Museum”

  1. Pingback: Cutting edge art at the Japanese Sword Museum - Tokyo in Pics

  2. Pingback: Tokyo Metropolitan Memorial Hall - for earthquakes & air raids - Tokyo in Pics

  3. Pingback: Fukagawa Edo Museum is for Edo lovers - Tokyo in Pics

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top