A day at the museum: Tokyo National Museum – The Lone Wonderer

There is a National Museum or National History Museum in most of the capital cities. Tokyo is no exception to the rule. Founded in 1872 for its first exposition at Taiseiden hall, the museum quickly moved to Uchisaiwai-Cho before moving again to Ueno Park in 1882, which is where the museum is since then. It’s the oldest and biggest museum in the whole country.

As an art and culture lover, museums often are the first places I go to visit when I land somewhere. I believe it’s important to understand and know about the history of a place you intend to settle for a while. And there is nothing wrong about getting more knowledge!

Hyokeikan (Congratulatory Gallery)

While European powers were colonizing the world, Japan had an isolationist foreign policy (sakoku) and remained a feudal society called the “Tokugawa Shogunate” for over 260 years. It’s only in 1868 and the rise of the Emperor Meiji to the throne that Japan became an Empire and opened itself to trade with foreign countries. The 44 years long reign of Meiji (1868-1912) is known as the Meiji-era. Influenced by Western architecture during the late Meiji-Era , Hyokeikan was built in the honor of the Prince Yoshihito and Sadako Kujo on May the 10th 1900. (Who became later Emperor Taisho and Empress Teimei). It opened his doors in 1909. 

Hyokeikan is closed to public except during special exhibitions, so I couldn’t get in. But the exterior looks pretty nice though.

Heiseikan (Heisei Gallery)

The Heisei era refers to the reign of Emperor Akihito (1989-2019). It can be translated as Peace Everywhere. It’s been erected to commemorate the wedding between Prince Hiro and Masako Okawa (now Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.) on June the 9th 1993. It opened its doors in 1999. The second floor includes 4 large galleries where regular special exhibition take place, while the first floor is where the Japanese Archaeology Gallery is based. You can find a lot of dated excavations there, including Jomon pottery, which is one of the oldest pottery in the world! (Jomon era: 14.000-1.000BCE)

Above are some pictures of relics that were exposed when I visited the gallery.

Horyu-ji Homotsukan (Gallery of Horyo Temple Treasures)

This 2 floors building hosts the collection of relics from the Horyu Temple in Nara. The very modern design given to this building by the famous japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi might not let you think that some of the relics exhibited there are over 1400 years old. It opened its doors in 1999.

To be honest, I can spend hours in a museum going all around the galleries and reading the information pannels and contemplating the different artworks exposed. But I don’t like to take that many pictures when I am there. Well, especially since you are not always allowed to in some galleries. 

After my 4 hours visit to the museum, I decided this day was not fullfilled enough and went for a walk in the neighbouring area of Ueno, following the recommendations of my guide: The Lonely Planet. With absolutely no regrets.

This was one of the hidden gem of Uenokoen at the time I was in Japan. I believe the popularity of this Shinto shrine has increased since then. The name is Tosho-Gu, and its used for keeping relics more than worshipping. It has been built in 1627 in the memory of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) , founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate (1600-1868). 

The main part of the building is called honden (main hall). It is interconnected with both the haiden (worhsip hall) and the heiden (offertory hall) altogether in the Gonken-Zukuri style.

It undoubtfully was worth to see.

A really cool looking tree at the intersection of 2 small streets.

A traditional pedestrian street with local shops.

A Chozuya. This is an ablution water pavilion for a ceremonial purification rite called Temizu. Worshippers wash their left hand, then right hand, mouth and the handle of the water ladle before approaching the Shrine.

To be completely honest, I have absolutely no idea what is that or what it was used for. I just thought it looked nice.

It was my first day going out to visit Tokyo after I arrived there. And what a fulfilling day it was! I can easily say that my adventure of lone wonderer began on that day! 

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