There are two must-visit museums in Tokyo. One is the Tokyo National Museum, located in Ueno Park, which houses an amazing collection of Japanese artwork and antiquities, but if you want to get a sense of what life was like for people living in Japan in the past, and how those cultural movements shaped its present, the place to go is the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
Edo is the old name for Tokyo, and as the Edo-Tokyo Museum’s name implies, its focus is on life in Japan’s capital during the Edo period (roughly 1600 to 1867) and the subsequent transition to the post-feudal era following the fall of the final shogunate, when the city was renamed Tokyo. The museum’s exhibit track the cultural, societal, political, and economic changes that took place during those centuries, and in addition to historical artifacts, there are detailed, large-scale recreations of homes, shopfronts, and even Edo’s majestic Nihonbashi Bridge as it appeared during the days of the samurai.
This week, the Edo-Tokyo Museum announced that the entire building will be shutting down in order to carry out large-scale renovations. The closure will start on April 1, and in keeping with its historical mindset, the museum gave its projected reopening target using the traditional Japanese imperial calendar, saying that they estimate they’ll be ready to start receiving visitors again sometime in Reiwa 7. So when’s Reiwa 7?
Yes, the entire museum will be shutting down for three years, and that’s assuming everything goes smoothly. The timetable has shocked many Twitter users, who’ve reacted with:
“Seriously? That’s way too long!”
“At least we’ve still got until the end of March! Gonna go by myself and really take my time to see everything.”
“The museum has the only statue of [shogun Tokugawa] Ieyasu in Tokyo! I really hope I can fit in one more visit before they shut down.”
“I think a lot of people who live in Tokyo forget about this place, but it really is worth visiting.”
As alluded to in the last comment, ordinarily a lot of the museum’s visitors are travelers from out of town or overseas, both of which are in short supply during the ongoing pandemic. Given those conditions, it’s possible the museum’s management figures now is a good time to start long-term maintenance/renovation projects, and odds are it could use more than a few, what with the museum having first opened back in 1993.
On the plus side, though, at least it’s not goodbye forever, like it has been with some other Tokyo landmarks recently, and in the grand scheme of the hundreds of years of history the Edo-Tokyo Museum covers, three years, by comparison, isn’t all that long.
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