The building that houses the Minato City Local History Museum was completed in 1938 and served as The Institute of Public Health. The building was designed by famed architect Yoshikazu Uchida and bears a striking aesthetic known as Uchida Gothic.
In 2018, the building was renovated with earthquake reinforcements and features to enhance accessibility. The entire facility was rechristened as Yukashi no Mori and now the history museum is joined by a variety of community-focused services including a cafe, child care facilities, a home-based palliative cancer support center, and a community collaboration space.
What to expect
Although many of the aforementioned services are meant for Minato Ward residents, the museum—with exhibits on the second, third, and fourth floors of the building—is open to all.
A mere 300 yen will grant you access to the permanent exhibition areas. For an extra 100 yen, you can also gain admission to the special exhibition space, which houses temporary exhibits that change every few months. During my visit, I enjoyed a fascinating exhibit featuring aerial photos of Minato Ward circa the 1960s.
If history isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy some of the most fascinating aspects of Yukashi no Mori for free. There’s no charge for those who simply wish to roam the halls and appreciate the building’s classic architecture. That being said, the highlight of the free activities is easily the vaguely named “Communication Room.” This room houses all kinds of interactive artifacts that chronicle thousands of years of life in the area that we now know as Minato Ward. Nothing makes you feel more connected to the distant past than cradling 3,000 year-old-pottery in your hands. Make sure to speak to the curators so that you too can share in this experience.
Making the most of your visit
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this museum is the great care that went into making it a truly bilingual experience. Most local museums in Tokyo either lack significant amounts of English information or require special arrangements (e.g. a tour guide) to gain an understanding of everything on display.
The curators of the Minato City Local History Museum, however, painstakingly translated the majority of the museum’s content into English, so you can easily explore the facility on your own, at your own pace. If you happen to be curious about something that wasn’t translated, there are several English speaking staff members who are eager and enthusiastic about ensuring that you have a pleasant, informative experience. So, explore to your heart’s content and don’t hesitate to reach out to the staff if you have any questions.
Be a part of history
With so many notable museums Tokyo, the comparatively small Minato City Local History Museum might be a hard sell for travelers with tight schedules. That being said, if you are a history, anthropology, or archaeology buff staying in Minato Ward, you may want to carve out a few hours for this enlightening experience.
However if you are a long-term Tokyo resident with a passion for the city that you call home, a visit to the Minato City Local History Museum is imperative. The Ward has invested so much in this beautiful facility, carefully renovating and preserving the historic building while ensuring that anyone can access it with ease.
Yukashi no Mori was created with a true international spirit and an inviting environment that welcomes Japanese residents as well as visitors from abroad to explore Minato Ward’s rich history. This community-focused facility will benefit generation upon generation to come, and it deserves your support.