In its sunken hearth, the fire crackles enticingly. Its guardian, an elderly woman with a face formidably composed of smile lines, waves us closer. We settle onto the tatami and sink into a companionable silence. The moment feels festive, ancient, sweet. It’s as if we’ve been allowed to step back into Japanese folk history, as if we’ve even been welcomed into someone’s home. Painstakingly transplanted from all of Japan’s corners, our cozy little corner is only 1 of over 25 stunning examples of rural, folk architecture preserved at Nihon Minka-en, Tokyo’s Open-Air Folk House Museum (in Kawasaki, next to Tokyo).
Open-Air Folk House … Museum?
I’ll come out and confess it… I’m a folklore nerd. I love learning about the tools, homes and festivals that became the beat of ancient people’s lives. Being able to wander Japan’s old rural homes, to touch their walls, feel the cool of mud floors, smell the woodsmoke and thatching, even see groups practicing traditional techniques—it gives you a feeling of connection, of living in the past, that glittering museum displays can only hope to aspire to. Whether you’re a folklore buff, an architecture enthusiast or simply looking for a relaxed stroll, then the Open-Air Folk House Museum is your place to be.
Your First Steps
Upon entering we were asked if we’d booked a guided tour or if we’d like to take an English audio guide. The museum offers free guided English tours for groups of 5 to 30, provided you’ve booked them 2 weeks in advance with this form. We hadn’t done our research and booked ahead, but since my companion’s Japanese was pretty good, we decided to risk proceeding un-guided. Our first stop was the exhibition hall. Chock full of models, displays and English translations, it’s a useful stop to gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the architecture you’ll be seeing.
(You can read the rest of the article at this link. This article was first published by Team JJ on August 27, 2019. Check here for deeper and unique insights into visiting Japan, including wellness, travel, cuisine and more.)