The National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura

The National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura was so fantastic, I had to devote a post to it. The museum is recommended sightseeing when in Narita City, so after visiting some of the local attractions in Narita City, we hopped on a train to Sakura. 

Then, a short bus ride, and in all, it only took about 45 minutes from Narita Station to the museum steps. FYI, we only made it to the museum, but there’s plenty more to do in Sakura if you’d like to make a day of it.

The museum covers an incredible breadth of Japanese history, made accessible to tourists via the free audio guides (sorry, the wrong thing is in focus here, but you get the idea) with background information on nearly every exhibit.

Here’s a small sampling of the exhibits:

Haniwa, clay figures from the Kofun period (approx 250-538 AD). Cute, but these jaunty figures served a ritual purpose, buried above or beside the body in a funeral mound, and it’s theorized that they were intended to hold the soul of the deceased.

I fell in love with the abundance of beautiful, incredibly detailed dioramas. Anyone want to sponsor a trip back to Japan just to photograph dioramas?

This. Is. Awesome. Overall, the museum’s facilities are perfectly modern, but they seem to have held onto their mid century modern lounge areas, and I can see why!

Vintage movie posters and playbills.

Inner courtyard of the museum, a pleasant place to relax and give our sore feet a rest. After almost 2 weeks of hoofing it everywhere in Japan, even a couple hours in the expansive museum necessitated some breaks. 

Fun life size reproduction of Asakusa street in the 1920s, and below, a 1960s apartment. They probably make these with kids in mind, but I love them too.

And the soaking bath in the apartment. It might look incredibly old-fashioned, but I’m pretty sure I saw something similar in a teacher friend’s otherwise modern apartment not that long ago, evidence of the old and new existing side by side in Japan. 

Folk and pop culture isn’t forgotten either, with a display of daruma dolls, symbols of good luck and perseverance.

I can’t remember what this tree monster was (and it turns out Googling “Japanese tree monster isn’t especially helpful). Something to do with a festival, but feel free to make up your own origin stories.

And even a display on modern life in Japan, which included an (actually fairly large for Japan) fridge stuffed full of typical foods and drinks.

I’ll leave you with Godzilla, a must for the pop culture display, and easily the inspiration for another trip.

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