The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is a little gem hiding away in Kanagawa prefecture, next to Tokyo! As its name suggests, this is where you can find the houses many Japanese used to build. It is a must-see for photographers interested in architectural photography.
The houses came from different parts of Japan and were once lived in by real people. When their owners didn’t need them were taken apart and moved to where they stand today. They aren’t replicas but the real thing.
Before you walk through the houses, pop into the main exhibition hall behind the reception building. It will give you an introduction to traditional Japanese house construction. You might learn a thing or two!
In Japan, a long time ago, if you had too much snow on your house, it could collapse. The Japanese created the gassho zukuri. It was a steep thatch roof to prevent that from happening. You can learn about that and more at the museum.
And you will find the museum has quite a few volunteers. They are there to practice, preserve, and display traditional crafts. You are quite welcome to sit down, join them, and have a chat (some speak English). It is an interesting place where you can learn about the old days.
You could spend at least three hours walking around the museum. That might let you see everything in its entirety. There are special exhibits throughout the year too. One is the kabuki stage which hosts plays (limited to 400 people). There are other events, so look at the museum`s homepage.
The Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum is a great place to visit. It has a lot to see and do. For anyone interested in Japanese culture or architecture, it’s a must-see. And, if you want to see more houses look at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. That is in Tokyo’s Koganei City.
A brief history of the museum
In the Meiji period, Japan modernized at a rapid pace. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn many of its older buildings were torn down. There was a massive loss of physical history and culture.
And that was why the museum opened in 1967. It was a place to preserve those disappearing things. People wanted to protect them for future generations.
What can you photograph at the museum?
The museum has twenty-five buildings. They include a water mill, boathouse, storehouse, and a Kabuki stage. There are also a variety of traditional houses from Eastern Japan. Eighteen of them are important national, prefectural, and cultural assets. You can also see other real tools and implements that people once used.
Photography at the museum
Cameras at the museum are no problem. But, if you want to use a tripod, you must get permission from the office. You can also do commercial work, with stipulations. Click here to see the details on the website.
Best time to go
For me, I recommend autumn. The colorful leaves add to the atmosphere.
Where is the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum?
The museum is near Mukougaoka-Yuen station, on the Odakyu Line. That is in Kanagawa prefecture, which is next to Tokyo. From Shinjuku, it takes a little over twenty minutes and costs 240 yen. From the station, leave via the south exit. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to the museum. Here is a Google map to help you:
Opening times for the museum vary:
- From March to October, it is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm (with last admittance at 4:30).
- From November to February, it is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (with last admittance at 4 pm).
- Over the New Year period, it closes from December 29 to January 3.
- The museum closes on Mondays but opens on public holidays.
General admission for adults is 500 yen.
Other photo spots near the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum
- Ikuta Ryokuchi Central Garden
- Ikuta Ryokuchi Rose Garden
- Mount Masugata observatory (not a real mountain, more of a hill).
There are two things which I need to mention about this museum. One is that it is pretty hilly. Some of the paths are only dirt so going there on a rainy day. That might involve some slipping and sliding if you aren’t careful. The other thing is that some buildings don’t have much in them. You will see farm implements, tools, and daily household items, but not in every house.
The museum is a great place to explore the Japan of old. And the architecture of the buildings is beautiful. Without a doubt, it is one of the best of its type in Tokyo.