Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bunkyo Museum

The thing about being in the middle of Tokyo is that it's like being in the heart of the pressure cooker. You can't go anywhere with bumping into something interesting, and often it's something that you weren't expecting. But, it's kind of unfair, picking an area like Akihabara to start from. First, you're in Akihabara, home of anime, manga, games and domestic electronics. Second, you go two miles in any direction and you'll hit either the used books center, the musical instruments center, Tokyo station, Kanda Myojin, the Yushima center with its statue of Confucius, Yushima Shrine, Ueno Station, Ueno Park, or Todai University. There's a good chance that Tokyo Dome and its roller coaster park is within this circle, and if it's not, it's pretty near it.

Which brings me to the Hongo District Bunkyo Museum. This museum is on Kasuga street, between Tokyo Dome and Todai University. The signs pointing to it are pretty easy to find. It's a small museum, with the area open to the public occupying the first two floors. But, entry is only 100 yen, which is a fair price to pay. Fliers for the museum are in German and Korean, but I didn't see anything in English. The exhibit descriptions are in Japanese only.

The first floor has various artifacts from different stages in Japan's history, and there's a diorama showing a number of Edo-era shops and inhabitants. The second floor has more recent historical artifacts, including ceramic shards, and a whole bunch of old, used electronics and domestic appliances. Fire was a big problem in Edo-era Tokyo, so a lot of emphasis is on the clothing and equipment used by Japanese firefighters. There's also a display of work from famous calligraphers, some old elementary school writing practice books, and a small selection of other books. The other books are interesting, in that one is an illustrated adventure story dating back to about 1850, and the woodblock print for it is very manga-like. There's another illustrated book from about 1890, an early issue of Shojo no Tomo (Girl's Friend) and Shonen Manga. A few adventure books run up to the early 1960's. It's not a great selection, but if you're in the area and you're interested in manga history, it's worth looking at.

Another reason for mentioning the Bunkyo Museum is that from Oct. 24 to Dec. 6, there's going to be a small exhibit titled '実録!"漫画少年" 誌' (Authentic account: "Manga Boy" magazine). I'll definitely end up going to this one when it comes out.

Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed Mondays and apparently every 4th Tuesday of the month.
Fee: 100 yen (70 yen if you're under 20.)

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