Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kagoshima Walk - Meiji Restoration Museum

There is only the one major river, the Kotsuki, running through Kagoshima City, in front of the Kagoshima-chuo train station, so when I say that the Meiji Restoration Museum is on the opposite side of the river, near Napoli Douri, in the middle of the History Road, you should be able to find it on google maps pretty easily.

The museum is open from 9 to 5 (hours may change by season) and apparently includes Mondays (which is unusual for Japan). Admission for adults is 300 yen. Most of the exhibits are in Japanese, with a small amount of English explanation, although they have English brochures. One thing that annoys me is that few of the museums include their website URL on the brochure, and trying to find it online via google or yahoo is a lot more of a hassle than I'd like.

Part of the History Road extends past the museum, and there's a reproduction of a typical samurai residence nearby.

There are free lockers just inside the door for your backpacks, and they do allow photos (except in the "red room" and in the drama theater). There are two floors, the first floor and the basement. The entrance on the first floor is through an interesting arch made up of flat panel TV screens.

Replica entrance gate within the museum.

The red room has a display of kimono, battle armor, artwork and other clothing. About halfway inside is a recreation of a room from the 2008 NHK taiga TV drama "Atsuhime". When I first noticed it, I thought it was a really realistic painting, then just a model room with a really realistic mannequin inside. Then the mannequin moved and an attendant asked if I wanted my photo taken with Atsuhime herself. I was really impressed with the entire idea of the museum having this kind of live interactive event. However, the other visitors seemed to be too self-conscious to participate.

Poster from the "Atsuhime" series.

The basement is divided up into three parts. First is the drama theater where they recreate events from the Meiji era, and where they have Disney-style robots giving their own play. On the left side are exhibits of old technology, and on the right are little glass case panoramas accompanied by projected figures and recorded speeches.

The Meiji era was marked by major advances in Japanese technology, including the adoption of the telegraph, steam-powered engines and the British-style cannon. The Japanese authorities contracted with the Dutch to receive training and education in western principles and medicine.

In this photo, the shells in the front are the British design, and in the back are Japanese. At the bottom is a set of weights allowing you to feel the difference between the two kinds of shells (15 kg vs 12 kg).

Overall, this is one of the best, most informative museums I've been to in Japan so far. I missed the drama theater, but that's ok. For 300 yen, I can always come back again for it later.

Highly recommended.

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