Yushukan Museum tells the Japanese military story

Yushukan Museum A6M Zero fighter aircraft
The A6M Zero fighter near the entrance.

The Yushukan Museum is a part of Yasukuni Shrine. It is filled with swords, armor, aircraft, and tanks. If you are a military buff, you’ll love it. There are enough exhibits there to keep you occupied for several hours. Be warned; photography there comes with a couple of caveats.

But we need to talk about something serious first. Yasukuni Shrine is a controversial place. We all know that (I hope we do anyway). And the Yushukan Museum is no different. But as Tokyo in Pics is a photography blog, I won’t comment on it. We are here for photos, and that is all.

Battleship Yamato painting
A painting of IJN Yamato.

The museum experience

As a museum, the Yushukan is good. It could take you a couple of hours to see all the material. If you are there for photos, and I hope you are, it’ll take more. Everything from the Japanese military story and its viewpoint is there.

The exhibits are excellent, but the medieval ones are especially so. Some of the ancient helmets had huge adornments. The men who wore them must have been bull-necked.

I will make one complaint here. There is little English on the displays. If you don’t read Japanese, you’ll only be looking at things and making guesses about some things.

A brief history of the Yushukan Museum

The Yushukan has two purposes:

  1. Show respect for the enshrined deities of Yasukuni Shrine
  2. Display military equipment. 

It first opened in 1882. From small beginnings, it expanded, and new buildings were added. But, the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake caused its demolition.

The famed architect, Chuta Ito, designed a new building. It opened in 1932.  Unfortunately, American bombing raids caused much damage in World War 2. Many records and paintings from the Tokugawa shogunate were lost.

In the post-war period, the building served a very different purpose. An insurance company used it as the Occupation forces had taken over its offices. The company left in 1980. In July 1986, the building became a museum again.

The main building was renovated on July 13, 2002, and the layout and exhibits were updated. A new building with a cinema was added to commemorate the shrine’s 130th anniversary. Everything looks great.

Ohka rocket-propelled suicide aircraft
A replica Ohka rocket-propelled suicide aircraft.

Where can you take photographs?

There are only two places:

  • Main lobby
  • Grand Gallery

That means you won’t be able to photograph the weapons and armor from Japan’s medieval periods.

Shokaku aircraft carrier model with aircraft
Shokaku aircraft carrier model with aircraft.

What can you photograph at the Yushukan Museum?

In the lobby area:

  • A6M Zero fighter aircraft 
  • Class C56 steam locomotive number C56 31 used in Thailand after the war.
  • Type 89 15 cm and Type 96 15 cm artillery pieces.

In the Great Exhibition Hall:

  • Anti-aircraft guns
  • Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (Comet) carrier-based dive bomber. 
  • Type 97 Chia-Ha tank found on Yap Island, 
  • a replica of an Ohka Model 11 rocket-propelled suicide aircraft 
  • a model of Mutsu (陸奥) battleship
  • Mementos from various battlegrounds.  They include helmets, a uniform worn by a paratrooper, and letters. 
  • Model 3 14 cm secondary gun from the battleship Mutsu
  • Special Attack Surface Boat Shin-Yo Model 1 (another suicide weapon)
  • Type 4 200 mm rocket mortar

There is so much more. The list is extensive. Much of it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. If you want to photograph it, you must go to the Yushukan.

Type 97 Chia-Ha tank
A Type 97 Chia-Ha tank.

Photography rules in the Great Exhibition Hall

  • Flashes, tripods, and selfie sticks aren’t allowed. 
  • The room is bright, so there shouldn’t be any problems with photography. Just boost your camera’s ISO a little.
Battleship Mutsu Model 3 14 cm secondary gun
A Model 3 14 cm secondary gun from battleship Mutsu.

Where is the Yushukan Museum?

It’s at Yasukuni Shrine; you can read more about that here.

Admission costs

  • You can look at the lobby exhibits for free.
  • The museum costs 1000 yen.
Yokosuka D4Y Suisei Comet carrier-based dive bomber
A Yokosuka D4Y Suisei Comet carrier-based dive bomber.

Opening hours

  • 9 am to 4:30 pm
  • The museum is closed at the end of June and December (consult the official website for precise dates)

Wrapping up

The Yushukan Museum is a controversial place. But if you want pictures of Japanese WW2 military equipment, it’s excellent. You can see things you won’t find anywhere else.

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