The Samurai Museum: An Exclusive Shinjuku Experience Nearly 700 Years in the Making

What are the first things that come to mind when you think of Japan? Chances are that “samurai” was one of the first words that popped into your head. It’s easy to write off Japan’s association with samurai as being trivial, akin to having cowboys represent American culture. However, with samurai dominating a nearly 700-year period of Japanese history, these warrior servants are truly an integral part of Japanese culture.
Often romanticized in cinema, video games, and comics, it’s difficult to separate fact and fiction when it comes to legendary samurai warriors. If you are looking to take on the monumental task of doing so, the Samurai Museum, located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, is a great place to start.


Travel back in time

Samurai armor often included face masks and horned helmets to intimidate enemies. Helmets were often adorned with family crests.

Stepping into the museum instantly transports you to feudal Japan as Tokyo reverts to Edo, and the city’s towering skyscrapers fade from your consciousness. After paying the entry fee, you are free to roam the museum on your own or take a one-hour guided tour. Although all exhibits have descriptions in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean, the information provided can be somewhat limited. Therefore, I recommend joining one of the frequently scheduled guided tours which are provided in English.

The museum is filled with exhibits containing several original sets of armor and weaponry. One sword in particular is over 800 years old! Additional highlights include:
– A fascinating exhibit on the legendary ronin, Miyamoto Musashi
– The chance to try on pieces of replica samurai armor
– Discovering who Japan’s real Last Samurai was (hint: it wasn’t Tom Cruise or Ken Watanabe)

An exhibit on the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Winning over 61 duels in his lifetime, he remained undefeated until his death, likely due to lung cancer, in his early 60s (the average lifespan of the time was around 30 years).

There are also live sword performances throughout the day, and you can find the latest scheduling information on the official website. With a reservation and additional fees, you can participate in a samurai sword lecture or try your hand at a samurai calligraphy lesson. Don’t worry if you can’t experience everything that the Samurai Museum has to offer on your first visit. At the time of this writing, you can reenter the museum at a later date with your original ticket.

A crash course in samurai history

Replica armor representing three of Japan’s greatest historical figures. From left to right: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

At 1,900 yen per ticket, some may consider the Samurai Museum to be a bit pricey, especially considering how small it is. If you have no interest in samurai history, this might not be the museum for you. You can find some more affordable alternatives here.

With a firing range of approximately two kilometers, this was the samurai-era equivalent of a bazooka.

If, however, you have even a passing interest in a crash course on the samurai and their integral role in Japanese history, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal. The entry fee is a small price to pay for an intimate guided tour, live sword demonstrations, and the unforgettable chance to try on pieces of samurai armor. Additionally, photographs are not only permitted, but encouraged—a rare treat when it comes to Japanese museums.

Foot soldier (left) vs. Samurai (right): Which armor would you rather have in battle? Visitors can try on the helmet and mask from the samurai armor on the right.

So the next time you find yourself in the ultra-modern Shinjuku Ward, check out the Samurai Museum, and journey back to a period of time like no other. In addition to increasing my knowledge of the samurai way of life, a life typically filled with constant battle (or the threat thereof), my visit to the museum had an unexpected side effect: an appreciation for the relatively peaceful society that many of us enjoy today. And that, as they say, is truly priceless.

For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:
The Samurai Museum: An Exclusive Shinjuku Experience Nearly 700 Years in the Making

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AUTHOR

Anthony

Anthony

Writer / Translator

Originally from Riverside, California, I've been living, working, and writing in Japan since 2009. Japan has become my second home, and I'm especially fond of Shinjuku, Tokyo. That being said, I also love getting out into the countryside and exploring the entire country. Through Tadaima Japan, I hope to share the wonders of Japan with a wider, international audience. Check out my articles if you enjoy exploring on foot, convenient cafes, and affordable dining.

Information

Address 2-25-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours 10:30 – 21:00 (last admission: 20:30)
Price 1,900 yen
Close -
Access Eight-minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station (East Exit); four-minute walk from Seibu Shinjuku Station; six-minute walk from Higashi-Shinjuku Station (Exit A1); 10-minute walk from Shinjuku-sanchome Station
Phone +81-(0)3-6457-6411
Language Japanese
English
Website https://www.samuraimuseum.jp/en/index.html