The Shitamachi Museum in Ueno is a small place that some people might walk by and not even notice. From the outside, the building looks rather plain. But, it is well worth visiting. The museum’s theme, of course, is Tokyo’s famous Shitamachi area. It has played a starring role in the city’s history. Step inside and see life that has mostly disappeared.
It’s an excellent museum with a retro feel. On the ground floor are three buildings in typical Shitamachi style. They look like they are from a Taisho period (1912 to 1926) street. It is like exploring an old movie set. There is nothing flashy, no computer screens or iPhones in this museum. It is all about the daily life of people who lived in the area. There is a rickshaw, a telephone box, pots and pans, and a workshop with all the tools and implements. You can see how they lived, worked, and played.
The second floor is more of a traditional museum. Displays change regularly, and most things are behind glass cases. This floor is highly educational. Unfortunately, some of the plaques lack English explanations.
If you need an English-speaking guide, they are available, so enquire at the desk. They are free! And sometimes, a traditional craftsman comes for a day to display their skills. Those can be very interesting to watch.
A brief history of the museum
What remains of Tokyo’s Shitamachi is now found in and around Taito Ward. You can see it in places like Asakusa (which is not far away). This museum shows how that life used to be.
What’s to see at the Shitamachi Museum
On the ground floor, three buildings have been created for visitors:
- dagashi-ya (neighborhood candy store)
- merchant’s shop
They all have living quarters attached like in the old days. If you enter them, please take your shoes off. And there is even a small shrine.
My favorite is the merchant’s shop. I like its Maneki Neko! If you want to see more of these cats, please check out my article about Gotokuji. That is their home!
The second floor has a more traditional type of museum display area. When I last visited, they had two exhibits. One was of Tokyo during World War Two. The other was of life during the Taisho and Showa periods. I’ve also seen displays of Meiji life and the early history of the Takarazuka. Takarazuka is an all-female theatre troupe that is still active today.
Photography at the museum
It’s not a great place for photography. The first floor can be dark (and flashes aren’t allowed), but I don’t mind. This place is for learning the history of Tokyo.
Where is the Shitamachi Museum?
The museum is in Ueno, not far from the station. Here is how you can get to it:
- Use JR Ueno station, from which it is about a five-minute walk. Leave via the Shinobazu gate/exit.
- Use Ueno-Okachimachi station (Toei Oedo subway line). Leave via exit C6, and you’ll be a short walk away.
Here is a Google map:
The museum is open from 9.30 am to 4.30 am daily – the last admittance is at 4 pm.
Other photo spots near the Shitamachi Museum
Ueno is a great area with a lot to do. After a visit to the museum, you can choose from:
Visiting during the coronavirus pandemic
It’s a requirement that all visitors wear masks and have their temperature checked. They also need to fill out a questionnaire and use disinfectant.
If you are a Tokyo history lover, the Shitamachi Museum is for you. While it doesn’t have a lot for photographers, it is an interesting place to visit. Most importantly, it won’t take up your whole day. You can see its website here.
Questions and comments can be left below.