Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

May 26, 2012

Modern Life - Shinjuku Historical Museum (Museums)

The Shinjuku Historical Museum is one of the best of the many city museums about local history in Tokyo. It highlights Shinjuku’s past as a post town.

The displays (all on the basement floor) start with a short section about archeological materials excavated in the ward and another one about Shinjuku in the Middle Ages with some itabi steles on display.

Shinjuku Historical Museum, Tokyo
[Shinjuku Historical Museum. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The exhibition really gets underway with the Edo period and a scale model of the post town ‘Naito Shinjuku,’ named after the daimyo family which administrated it (Shinjuku Gyoen Park incorporates part of the garden of the Naito clan). There is also a full scale model of a shop in kura-style (for protection of the wares against fire) as used to stand in the post town.

Part Four of the exhibition is about literature (Shakespeare translator Tsubouchi Shoyo lived in Shinjuku, as did modern literature giant Natsume Soseki and Kwaidan author Lafcadio Hearn - these last two both happen to be buried in the Zoshigaya cemetery, also in Shinjuku.

Statue of Tsubouchi Shoyo, Waseda University, Tokyo
[Statue of Tsubouchi Shoyo in the Waseda University grounds. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

The fifth and last part is dedicated to the early Showa period. There is a model of a tram, a house built in the suburbs for the new commuters with partly Western interior, and a display about Shinjuku as pleasure district, with its bars, restaurants, theaters (one named Moulin Rouge) and cinemas.

Salaryman culture also gets attention with an interesting display about all the items the average Showa salaryman carried in his pockets and briefcase – note the omamori, or amulet, the only typically Japanese item. As usual in most history museums, there are no English labels, but the displays are easy to follow.
Tel. 03-3359-2131
Hrs: 9:00-17:00; CL Mon (next day if NH), NY.
Access: 8 min. on foot from Akebonobashi on the Toei Shinjuku subway line; 10 min. from Yotsuya Sanchome St. on the Marunouchi Line and 12 min. from JR Yotsuya St. (The easiest way to find the Shinjuku Historical Museum is to take the Marunouchi line from Shinjuku for a few stations to Yotsuya-Sanchome, from which it is a short walk.)