Tokyo Fire Museum: A photo Guide

Ibeco-Magirus Ladder Vehicle
An Ibeco-Magirus Ladder Vehicle.

Tokyo’s Fire Museum is a great place to visit. It teaches about the city’s struggle with fire over the centuries. You can see lots of exciting stuff like fire engines and helicopters. Best of all, it is FREE. And if you have a camera, you can also get a few nice pictures!

The museum is easy to find. It’s next to the Yotsuya-Sanchome subway station. And pick up an English-language headset that will tell you more about the exhibits as you move around. Then you can explore, starting with the helicopter in the foyer. It is big and red and flew many hours for the Tokyo Fire Department before retirement.

After that, there is the basement. Many big exhibits fill it. Six fire engines from the United States, France, and Germany are there. Some date to the 1920s, but a couple are modern. Any future firefighter will be sure to love them.

One thing you need to know is that the building houses an actual fire station! So, you won’t be able to enter some floors (i.e., the second). And there are some you won’t need like the conference/event rooms and libraries. That leaves the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and tenth floors for you to explore.

Tokyo Fire Museum Sud Aviation Alouette III helicopter
The Sud Aviation Alouette III helicopter.

Firefighting in the modern age is the topic of the third floor. It is the most exciting one. There are static displays of some cool and exciting modern equipment and gear. Before the pandemic, kids could climb over a lot of the stuff on the floor. But due to safety concerns, it is not possible now.

The fourth and fifth floors are all about history. They have great static displays and focus on the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa periods. There are also pictures of the Fire Department at early-twentieth-century disasters. These include the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Shirokiya Department Store fire.

I especially liked the fifth floor. It had the firefighting equipment and uniforms of Japan’s feudal era. One piece of history I enjoyed was the matoi. Edo (as Tokyo was once known) had many wooden buildings, so it was prone to fire. To combat them, many independent firefighting units sprang up.

As each was independent, they needed their unit symbols. Those were the matoi. Made of wood, they were of unique design and weighed about twenty kilograms. At fires, a unit member would wave it overhead to signify they were in attendance.

The sixth floor has audio-visual displays and a helicopter on the roof. The French-built machine was in service from the 1960s until the 1980s. You can climb into it, but it is closed during high winds.

If you need a rest, the tenth floor will help you out. There is no food on sale, but there are drink machines, tables, and chairs. It has large windows, from which you can see Tokyo Skytree, Shinjuku, and on a fine day, Mount Fuji.

Matoi firefighting banners
Edo-period Matoi firefighting unit identifiers.

What can you photograph at the Fire Museum?

  • Fire trucks
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Helicopters (2 real and one for kids)
  • Mount Fuji (said to be visible from the tenth floor in fine weather)
Ahrens-Fox Fire Pump Vehicle
A Ahrens-Fox Fire Pump Vehicle.

Photography tips for the museum

  • Some parts of the Fire Museum are rather dark. You’ll need high ISO.
  • It’s a Japanese museum, so most things are in Japanese. But, on the plaques, there is an adequate amount in English.
  • Tripods aren’t allowed.

Other photo spots in the area

Tokyo Fire Museum details

See the museum’s location, opening hours, and other details on the official website.

Wrapping up

If you are a fan of firefighting, Tokyo’s Fire Museum is for you. You’ll be able to get some great photos of some unique engines. And there is much to learn about the city’s long history with its fight against fire. Leave questions and comments below.

Fujifilm camera gear used for the Fire Museum:

  • Camera Body: X-T3
  • Lenses: XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS and XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR