As written in the previous post, I visited Meiji Mura Museum along with my hubby’s sister and her family on 20th September 2015. Meiji Mura Museum is an outstanding open-air architectural museum located in Inuyama City of Aichi prefecture. It was opened in March 1965. The museum displays and preserves over sixty historic buildings mostly from Meiji (1868-1912) period along with several buildings from Taisho (1912-1926) and early Showa (1926-1989) periods also. All these buildings have been moved from their original locations and reconstructed onto 1000000 square meters of rolling hills along side Lake Iruka. It was during Meiji period when Japan opened its doors to the outside world after centuries of isolation. During this Meiji period, Japan absorbed and assimilated western culture and technology. Builders across the country adopted styles, techniques and materials of western style stone and brick architecture. However many of the Meiji period buildings were lost in earthquake and war disasters, and also the rapid economic growth of the 1960s promoted new city land development projects. This led to old unused buildings being demolished one after the other. Meiji Mura Museum was built to preserve such unused buildings with historic value that are early examples of western architecture mixed with Japanese construction techniques and materials. The museum was started by architect Dr. Taniguchi Yoshiro and Tsuchikawa Motoo, then vice president and later president of Nagoya Railroad Company. They chose culturally valuable buildings that were going to be destroyed, brought them to Meiji Mura and reconstructed them to their original appearance. In addition, notable buildings of historic or cultural importance from later eras like Taisho and Showa periods are also preserved at the museum, including a few Japanese style buildings. Ten of the buildings are designated as important cultural properties, and nearly all the rest are registered as tangible cultural properties.
On the morning of 20th September 2015, my sister-in-law and her family picked me up from our Ichinomiya home at about 9 am. Meiji Mura Museum is located about 35 kilometers east of our home, and it took about 40 minutes of car ride to reach the open-air museum in Inuyama City. We bought three tickets each worth 1700 Yen for the adults and two tickets each worth 600 Yen for the nieces as admission fee and entered inside the open-air museum premises. Inside the premises, we saw paved pathways in the vast beautiful rolling hills. Many historic buildings from the Meiji period as well as Taisho and Showa periods were arranged along the pathways. We leisurely walked along the pathways and enjoyed viewing the architectural style of these buildings. We visited and entered inside many of these buildings and learned little bit about the lifestyle of the bygone era.
On entering inside the Meiji Mura Museum premises, we saw a steam locomotive and several third class passenger carriages. The passenger carriages were manufactured in 1908 and 1912. Many people were enjoying a short ride in the train inside the open-air museum premises. But we skipped the ride and continued walking along a pathway.
Third class passenger carriages
Sister-in-law and nieces in front of the carriages
After about ten minutes of walking along the pathway, we saw the reconstructed main entrance hall and lobby of Imperial Hotel. The original Imperial Hotel was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1923 and stood in Uchisaiwai-cho, Chiyoda-ku in Tokyo from 1923 to 1967, when the main structure was demolished to make way for a new larger version of the hotel. So the former Imperial Hotel building was moved from Tokyo to Meiji Mura Museum between 1967 and 1985. Though only the entrance and lobby of the hotel remain, it is the largest structure in the open-air museum. The main finish of the reconstructed building is Greenish tuff volcanic rock carved in geometric patterns, and yellow brick, while ferroconcrete is used to provide structural strength. We entered inside the building and appreciated the grand and elegant front lobby of the hotel. It was so funny to see my younger niece checking in at the hotel front desk.
Side view of Imperial Hotel building
Main entrance hall building of the hotel is grand
Inside front lobby of the hotel
Younger niece checking in at the hotel front desk
Elegant view in front of the hotel
We continued walking along the pathway for a couple of minutes and next saw two reconstructed buildings in front of us. We also saw a Meiji era shuttle bus that provides transportation within the museum grounds. The building to our left side was Central Guard Station of Kanazawa Prison. The original building was built in 1907 and was located at Kodatsuno, Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture. The reconstructed Central Guard Station building at the museum is an amazing looking octagonal structure with five prison wards radially arranged around it. Initially we actually saw the side view of the reconstructed Guard Station from the northeast side and could not see the prison wards which seemed to be hidden in the greenery all around the buildings. The building to our right side was Miyazu District Court. The original court building was built in 1886 and was located at Honmachi, Miyazu in Kyoto prefecture. We noted that the reconstructed court building at the museum is a semi-western wooden building, and the western-style influence could be seen in the design of the entrance of the building. We appreciated the architecture of both the buildings from the northeast direction and then continued walking along the pathway. Next we saw the Central Guard Station building, one of its prison wards, and yet another striking looking building named Tokyo Central Station Police Box from the southeast side where the front entrance area of both the Guard Station as well as the Police Box buildings are located. The original Tokyo Central Station Police Box building was built in 1914 and was located at Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku in Tokyo. The reconstructed Police Box building at the museum is a ferroconcrete structure dressed with a brick facade, and its external shape is an octagon created by cutting the four corners of a square. We enjoyed looking at the brick colored Police Box building but did not enter inside. However we entered inside the Central Guard Station building and saw a few statues of prisoners dressed in orange colored prison clothes of the Meiji period.
Central Guard Station (1) and Miyazu District Court (2) buildings as viewed from the northeast side along with a Meiji era shuttle bus in the foreground
Miyazu District Court
A prison ward of Central Guard Station (3), Tokyo Central Station Police Box (4), and Central Guard Station (1) as viewed from the southeast side
Front entrance area of Tokyo Central Station Police Box
Front entrance area of Central Guard Station
Two statues of prisoners dressed in orange colored prison clothes of the Meiji period as seen inside Central Guard Station
We walked along the pathway for another minute or so and next saw the Main Gate of Kanazawa Prison right in front of us. The original Main Gate building was built in 1907 and was located at Kodatsuno, Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture. The reconstructed Prison Main Gate building at the museum is a brick structure, has a two-storied watchtower on either side, and has an arched main gateway in the center flanked by smaller gates on each side. From the Prison Main Gate area, to our right side, we saw the backside of a dark colored building named Kikunoyo Brewery located on a slightly hilly area. The original brewery building was built in 1868 and was located at Ginza, Kariya in Aichi prefecture. The reconstructed brewery building at the museum is a Japanese-style tile-roofed storehouse, and it consists of a two-storied section with a mud-coated outer wall.
Main Gate of Kanazawa Prison
Kikunoyo Brewery located on a slightly hilly area (right side) along with a portion of the Prison Main Gate (left side)
After walking along the pathway for another ten minutes, we reached in front of St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral. The original cathedral building was built in 1890 and was located at Sanjo, Kawaramachi, Nakagyo-ku in Kyoto prefecture. In fact, Francis Xavier landed at Kagoshima in 1549 and then moved to Kyoto where he wanted to build a church. His wish was finally granted 340 years later when the cathedral was erected and named after him. The reconstructed cathedral building at the museum is a typical Gothic structure made of stuccoed brick with a large rose window more than four meters in diameter above the front entrance. When the cathedral was moved to the museum, it was made more earthquake-proof with brick-faced reinforced concrete. We entered inside the cathedral and loved the quite and peaceful atmosphere. The columns and vaults inside the cathedral are made of zelkova wood. We loved looking at the colorful stained-glass windows and rose windows.
Front view of St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral
Inside the cathedral
Further inside the cathedral
Sanctuary area inside the cathedral
A colorful stained-glass rose window as seen from inside the cathedral
Yet another rose window
We continued walking along the pathway for another five minutes and reached a bus stop where we took the Meiji era shuttle bus to move to another area within the museum grounds. While waiting at the bus stop, we saw two wooden buildings right in front of us. The building to our left side was a Kabuki Theater named Kurehaza. The original theater building was built in 1868 and was located at Nishihonmachi, Ikeda in Osaka prefecture. The reconstructed theater building at the museum is a two storied wooden structure with a drum platform projecting from the front gable. The building is designated as an important cultural property. The building to our right side was a bathhouse named Azumayu. The original bathhouse building was built in 1910 and was located at Kamezaki-cho, Handa in Aichi prefecture. The reconstructed bathhouse building at the museum is a wooden structure with the front half having two stories: the changing room and a Japanese style room, while the bathroom section at the back is one storied.
A Meiji era shuttle bus along with Kurehaza Theater (left) and Azumayu Bathhouse (right)
After about ten minutes of shuttle bus ride, we got down and saw many interesting buildings all around us. We noted that an entire high street has been recreated with many buildings arranged in small clumps along the street. The street was full of visitors and tourists. We loved the landscape. While walking along this street we saw four interesting buildings to our right side and one building to our left side. The first building to our right side was Telephone Exchange of Sapporo. The original telephone exchange building was built in 1898 and was located at Odori, Sapporo in Hokkaido prefecture. The reconstructed building at the museum has thick stone outer wall which is a symbol of the use of natural resources of Hokkaido. The building is designated as an important cultural property. The second building to our right side was Aizu Branch of Yasuda Bank about which I will write in the next paragraph. Adjacent to this bank, we saw the third building to our right side named Nakai Sake Brewery. The original brewery building was built in 1870 and was located at Gokomachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku in Kyoto prefecture. The reconstructed brewery building at the museum has traditional exterior features of the Kyoto region with low eaves and gentle curves of the roof. Adjacent to this brewery, we saw the fourth building to our right side named Tomatsu House. The original Tomatsu House was built in 1901 and was located at Funairi-cho, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya in Aichi prefecture. The reconstructed building at the museum is a typical house of a tradesman with a narrow frontage but quite deep from front to back. Tomatsu House is designated as an important cultural property. The building to our left side along the street was the Auditorium of Chihaya-Akasaka Primary School. The original auditorium building was built in 1897 and was located at Chihaya-Akasakamura, Kawachi-gun in Osaka prefecture. The reconstructed auditorium building at the museum is a two storied wooden structure and has a continuously arched arcade about 2 meters wide running around all four sides. We enjoyed viewing all these reconstructed buildings along the recreated high street. While walking back, we saw an interesting building named Kitasato Institute located in the hills in front of the street. The original institute building was built in 1915 and was located at Shirogane, Minato-ku in Tokyo. The reconstructed institute building at the museum is a two storied wooden structure having the new era style. With German baroque as the basis, the building has an octagonal steeple on top.
Telephone Exchange of Sapporo (1) and Aizu Branch of Yasuda Bank (2)
Aizu Branch of Yasuda Bank (2), Nakai Sake Brewery (3), and Tomatsu House (4) standing in a row on the right side of the high street
A portion of the Auditorium of Chihaya-Akasaka Primary School standing on the left side of the high street
Side view of the Auditorium of Chihaya-Akasaka Primary School
Kitasato Institute located in the hills
As discussed in the previous paragraph, now I will write about the second building we saw to our right side along the recreated high street. The building was the Aizu Branch of Yasuda Bank. The original branch bank building was built in 1907 and was located at Omachi, Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture. The reconstructed building at the museum is built in a godown style based on a traditional fire resistant construction method. We entered inside the building and appreciated the interior design of the building. We saw amazing displays of a bicycle and a wall clock from the Meiji period near the entrance area inside the building. We also noted that an interesting service of getting our photos clicked wearing traditional Japanese clothes or western clothes of the Meiji period is offered inside this building. Both the nieces tried out western as well as Japanese clothes and they looked so pretty in such clothes from the bygone era.
Aizu Branch of Yasuda Bank
A bicycle from the Meiji period displayed inside the branch bank building
Display of a wall clock from the Meiji period
Nieces wearing western clothes of the Meiji period
Nieces wearing traditional Japanese clothes of the Meiji period
Nieces wearing traditional Japanese clothes of the Meiji period and posing with their mother and me outside the building
Next we walked along the pathway for about ten minutes and saw Mie Prefectural Office building right in front of us. The original office building was built in 1879 and was located at Sakae-cho, Tsu in Mie prefecture. The reconstructed office building at the museum is symmetrical on the left and the right sides with its axis at the entrance. It is a two storied white colored office building with many rooms inside. The western style of graining technique was adopted for constructing doors, windows, and window frames of the building. The building is designated as an important cultural property. We entered inside the building and loved seeing various exhibits displayed in several rooms of the building. We saw the typical meal sets of the Meiji period displayed in one of the rooms. The displayed food items made of plastic looked so real. We also saw several tools and iron boxes of the Meiji period displayed in the same room. In another room, we saw the display of large wooden buckets suspended from the ends of shoulder poles, and visitors were allowed to experience holding such buckets with weights inside them.
Mie Prefectural Office
Display of typical meal sets of the Meiji period
Display of several tools and iron boxes of the Meiji period
Younger niece holding wooden buckets suspended from the ends of a shoulder pole
We walked further along the pathway for another fifteen minutes and reached in front of St. John’s Church. The original church building was built in 1907 and was located at Gojo, Kawaramachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku in Kyoto prefecture. The reconstructed church building at the museum has a brick exterior that is a beautiful blend of Romanesque and Gothic design. The interior features distinctively Japanese designs appropriate for the climate of Kyoto, such as the bamboo blind in the ceiling. The church building is designated as an important cultural property. We entered inside the church and loved the quite and peaceful atmosphere.
Front view of St. John’s Church
Enlarged view of the front side of the church
Sanctuary area inside the church with bamboo blind in the ceiling clearly seen
A colorful stained-glass window as seen from inside the church
There were many more interesting historic buildings inside Meiji Mura Museum premises. However, the nieces were very tired of walking the entire day. Therefore at this point we decided to finish the tour of the open-air museum. We bought a few souvenirs from a shop located in the museum premises, and left the premises at about 4 pm. We had a fun-filled enjoyable time visiting the museum and it felt like we took a one-day-trip to the bygone era of the Meiji period.