Nihon Minkaen (日本民家園), the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum, is located in Tama Ward, Kawasaki, and displays minka, traditional Japanese vernacular houses from all over Japan. It was established in 1967 for the conservation of 'folk houses' from the Edo Period (1603-1868) and holds 25 buildings and other structures on about 30,000 square metres.
The Nihon Minkaen consists of three areas: the Kantō Regional Village, the Post Town, and the Tōhoku Regional Village; visitors can enter almost all of the buildings which have been designated important cultural properties of either Kawasaki, Kanagawa, or even Japan. The park is not only an open-air museum but seeks to recreate the lifestyle of the Japanese during the Edo Period, displaying items of daily life, stone sculptures, and reproductions of traditional decorations which are changed according to the season.
Volunteers often give demonstrations in traditional crafts and techniques, such as bamboo and rice straw craftwork, and weaving. They also guide visitors around the museum, English-speaking visitors can arrange tours for groups of 5-30 people by contacting the museum two weeks in advance.
The exhibition hall at the entrance to the open-air museum holds a small museum that introduces different types of minka houses (plain, mountains, coast, towns) as well as objects of daily life.
The entrance to the open-air museum.
The Hara House and the Suzuki House right at the entrance.
The Hara House: the Hara were wealthy landowners from Nakahara Ward in Kawasaki. The house was originally built in 1911.
Inside the Hara House, displaying the wealth of landowners.
The Misawa House and the Saji House gate. The Misawa were merchants from Nagano Prefecture; the Saji were a samurai family from modern-day Nagoya.
The watermill was originally located in Ōaza-Kamigaya in Nagano Prefecture and dates back to the mid-19th century. It was used to grind grain, buckwheat, and the materials used to produce incense sticks.
The Yamada House, the Emukai House, and the Sasaki House: the Yamadas and the Emukais were farmers from Toyama, the Sasakis village headmen from Nagano. Note the gasshō-style houses with gabled roofs of thatch.
The Ōta House, originally from Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture, partly from the 17th century, partly from the late 18th century. The Ōtas were farmers and village headmen.
The Nohara House from Toga Village in Toyama prefecture. It dated back to the late 18th century and was a gasshō-style farmhouse.
The Yamada House from Katsura, Toyama Prefecture. It is the only one of the originally seven gasshō-style houses in that hamlet that survived. It dates back to the early 18th century.
The Kudо̄ House from Shiwa in Iwate Prefecture. They were farmers and village headmen. Visible in the foreground is the irori (fireplace) known as kakekomiro ("plunge hearth").
The Kiyomiya House from Noborito in Tama Ward, Kawasaki. It dated back to the late 17th century and was a farmhouse.
The Ota House from Kasama in Ibaraki Prefecture. It dated back to the late 17th century and was home to a family of farmers and village headmen.
Kokagesan Shrine from Asao Ward in Kawasaki. It was built in 1863 and dedicated to the patron deity of sericulture, Kokagesan Daigongen.
The Kudо̄ House from Shiwa in Iwate Prefecture.
Kabuki stage from Shima in Mie Prefecture. The stage dates back to 1857 and is quite large for a rural Kabuki theatre. This is the pit where the stage could be turned during performances.
More photos in our Nihon Minkaen gallery.
Address: 7-1-1 Masugata, Tama Ward, Kawasaki City, 214-0032 Japan; phone: 044-922-2181, fax: 044-934-8652
Opening hours: 9:30 - 17:00 (March-October), 9:30 - 16:30 (November-February); closed on Mondays (unless a public holiday), the day after public holidays and from December 29 to January 3.
Admission: 500 JPY (adults), 300 JPY for students (universities, colleges, and senior high schools) as well as senior citizens over 65 years of age, free for children (junior high school and under) and disabled persons.
Access: by train either on Odakyu line from the south exit of Mukogaokayuen Station (a 13-minute walk) or on JR Nambu Line from Noborito Station (25-minute walk); by bus from Mukogaokayuen Station on Kawasaki City bus No.19 to Ikuta Ryokuchi Entrance (生田緑地入口, 3-minute walk) or by Kawasaki City bus No.6 stop from the bus terminal of South Exit at Mizonokuchi station; if you arrive by car there is a two-story parking lot near the entrance.