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Tokyo’s Fire Museum tells its firefighting history

Kids love Tokyo’s Fire Museum.  It has exciting stuff like fire engines and helicopters and tells of the city’s struggle with fire.  Best of all, it is FREE.  And if you have a camera, you can also get a few nice pictures!

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

The museum is easy to find.  It’s next to the Yotsuya-sanchome subway station.  Upon entry, you’ll need to register and have your temperature taken.  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. 

old Tokyo Fire Department fire engines

After that, most people move straight to the basement area to see the big exhibits, the fire engines.  The engines are from the United States, France, and Germany.  Some date to the 1920s, but there are some modern ones.  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.

Matoi firefighting standards
Matoi, the insignia of Edo-period firefighting units.

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 this 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.

Magirus Iveco fire engine

I especially liked the fifth floor.  It had the fire fighting 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 fire-fighting 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 designated unit member would wave it overhead to signify who was in attendance. 

Japanese samurai female disaster wear Fire Museum display
Clothing used by women during fires for easy recognition.

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.

Japanese firefighting equipment

What to photograph at the Fire Museum?

  • Fire trucks
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Helicopters (2 real and one for kids)
  • Mount Fuji (I haven’t seen it, but it’s said to be visible from the tenth floor in fine weather).

Tips for photography at the museum

  • Some parts of the museum are rather dark.  You’ll need high ISO (as tripods aren’t allowed),
  • It’s a Japanese museum, so most things are in Japanese.  But, on the plaques, there is an adequate amount in English.
Japanese fire department motorbike

Where is the Tokyo Fire Museum?

It is so easy.  Use the Marunouchi subway line to Yotsuya-sanchome station (from Shinjuku, only three stops).   Leave via exit 2, which will put you right next to the museum.  You don’t need a map to get there, but here is one anyway!

Here is a Google map:

Opening hours

The Fire Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30 am to 5 pm.  It is closed on Monday (unless it is a national holiday. It will close the following day) and over the New Year period (December 28th to January 4th).

Please check the website to confirm opening hours before visiting. Unfortunately, its useful information is in Japanese only.

horse drawn fire engine

Admission costs

None

Other photo spots in the area

  • Meiji Jingu Gaien (a huge park-like area.  It has an art museum, stadium, and other sporting facilities)

diorama of Edo period firefighting

Wrapping up

The Fire Museum is fun.  If you want something for “Tokyo with kids,” it will be a good choice as it is free and easy to access.  You can leave any questions or comments below.

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