Edo-Tokyo Museum: A photo guide

Sukeroku stage with kabuki display
Sukeroku stage with kabuki display.

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.

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.

Once you get your ticket, head to the Edo-Tokyo Museum’s 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 main area. 

Edo-Tokyo Museum Nihonbashi replica
The Nihonbashi replica.

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.

Japanese sword display
Japanese swords.

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.

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!

B29 bomber 50 caliber machine gun display
A 50-caliber machine-gun from a downed B-29 bomber.

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.

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.

A brief history of the museum

The Edo-Tokyo 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.

Edo Tokyo museum flame shaped Jomon pottery
Jomon-period pottery.

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).

Photo spots in the area

There are quite a few. And they aren’t far.  They include:

Edo-Tokyo Museum Asahi Newspaper building
The Asahi newspaper buliding.

Edo-Tokyo Musem Park details

See the museum’s admission fees, opening hours, and location on the official website. Please note it is closed until 2025.

Wrapping Up

The Edo-Tokyo Museum is fabulous. If you have any interest in the city, you should visit it.  It is the best place to learn the Tokyo story. You should go at least once, probably more if you get the chance!

samurai armor display
Samurai armor.

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