In 1868, Japan emerged from a self-imposed isolation period during which it cut itself off from the outside world for 250 years. While Japan was able to develop and perfect its culture during those years, it also found itself left behind technologically as the rest of the world advanced.
Shaking off its feudal society, and casting aside the shogun in favor of the young Emperor Meiji’s leadership, Japan embarked on a road to rapid modernization, turning to Western fashions, architecture, education and inspiration, but much with a hint of Japanese aesthetics thrown in for good measure.
Relocation and Preservation
Many of these building survived until the end of WW2, but then Japan’s second wave of modernization began, and many of these architectural treasures were demolished. Over 67 structures have been carefully sourced and relocated from across Japan, tastefully renovated and preserved in the wide grounds. 10 of those buildings have been designated as Important Cultural Properties. Some of the buildings are only viewable from the outside, but many are open, displaying period furniture and items making the museum come alive. The Meiji Mura Museum is so extensive, you may not be able to see everything in less than a full day. To help you get around, you can ride an authentic Meiji period street-car that once plied the streets of Kyoto, hop aboard a working steam train around Lake Iruka, or ride the Village Bus.
The open-air museum is divided into five areas. Area One features a Meiji period high school and the homes of famous writers Natsume Soseki and Mori Ogai. Area Two has an old Sake Brewery, an original telephone exchange, a bank building and the auditorium of a former primary school. Area Three shows you what a Meiji period hospital looked like, Former politician's detached residence, a foreigner’s home from the settlements at Kobe and more. Area Four features a working post office, shops and a theater, while Area Five has Kyoto’s old St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, an old police box, photo studio, a prison and courts, and even the Main Entrance and lobby of the Frank Lloyd Write designed Imperial Hotel. There is so much to see and enjoy. The park and its fine collection are often used as sets for TV period dramas and movies. To really get a feel of the times, you can dress in period costumes to stroll the streets.
Step back in time to a fascinating period in between the world of the samurai and modern Japan, a romantic era known as the Meiji Period.