Travel through Time at the Minato City Local History Museum

Tokyo is a city of cities, officially divided up into 23 wards. Each ward has its own unique character and history, however Minato Ward (also known as Minato City) is undeniably one of the most prominent and historically significant parts of Tokyo.
Minato means “port” or “harbor” in Japanese, and in many ways the ward that bears its namesake is Tokyo’s cradle of life and gateway to the rest of the world. During the formative years of the Edo period, the rivers that emptied into Tokyo Bay, created a resource rich ecosystem that fueled the development of the land that would eventually become Minato Ward and subsequently the region that would become modern Tokyo.

As a bayside region, Minato Ward includes notable districts such as Odaiba, Hamamatsucho, and Shibaura. This is in addition to the ward’s ritzy inland locales such as Roppongi, Azabu-Juban, and Akasaka. Historically Japan’s gateway to the world, Minato Ward is famous for its large international population. Minato Ward is home to 83 foreign embassies—60% of all of the embassies in the entire country.

The Minato City Local History Museum perfectly chronicles the evolution of the prominent districts that surround Tokyo Bay. It is a fascinating, affordable way to explore thousands of years of natural and modern history.

2019-06-25   Visit: Museums, Tokyo,


Local legacy

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

A minke whale skeleton in the Communication Room. Fun fact: you can actually touch it along with several other animal skeletons, fossils, and ancient pottery.

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.

Speak with the museum curators and they’ll let you touch and hold 3,000-year-old artifacts.

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.

The Communication Room is comprehensive, with exhibits that cover everything from ancient times to the modern era. Pictured above is a Sony tape recorder from 1959.

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.

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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 4 Chome-6-2 Shirokanedai, Minato City, Tokyo 108-0071
Hours 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Mon. – Fri. and national holidays)
9 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Saturdays)
Price 300 yen (permanent exhibitions)
Close Third Thursday of every month
Access One-minute walk from Exit 2 of Shirokanedai Station
on the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line or Toei Mita Line
Phone 03-6450-2107
Language Japanese
English
Website https://www.minato-rekishi.com