I also wanted to make an effort to visit a few museums. Didn’t get to as money as I would have liked to. I did not manage to go to Ueno Park and the multiple museums located inside it in particular, but oh well. It’s also nice to leave something behind for further trip(s) sometime down the line.
Japanese Sword Museum:
At one point in my early teenage years, I was absurdly into Japanese swords, so much so that I nearly drove my poor parents into insanity with my incessant demands that somebody buy me a katana. I have luckily managed to (mostly) get over this embarassing episode, but there’s still some fascination left, so I decided to head to the Japanese Sword Museum on a rainy day. The museum is quite small and located in some back streets that are not easy to find (although it shouldn’t be a problem with Google Maps or similar apps). When I say that it’s small, I mean that it’s really small. Like, one room. I’ll be honest, I don’t think this is really worth going out of your way to see unless you’re a huge sword nerd. It’s basically one exhibition room with a bunch of swords and some information that did not grab my attention that much (like who owned it, stuff like that). There’s also an explanation on how these swords get made. Given the size of the place, the admission fee is also not exactly on the low side. Photos are not allowed. It’s alright and I don’t regret visiting (hey, Japanese swords are pretty damn cool after all), but it’s not exactly must-see either.
Suginami Animation Museum:
I also had a huge anime phase starting in my childhood with shows like Dragonball, and kept it going for a pretty dang long time with Death Note, Monster, Full Metal Panic et al. I haven’t really watched any anime in years, but Suginami Animation Museum still seemed like a must visit.
It’s also quite small (but much larger than the sword museum), but admission is free and it’s definitely worth a visit if you have any interest in Japanese animation. There are a lot of neat little exhibits, from a history of Japanese anime to a bunch of devices explaining how to animate still images, and much more. It seems very kid-friendly, but adults should get a kick out of it too. You get a pretty good idea of how anime are produced and can take a look at the different roles involved in such a project. There is a mini-documentary on the production of Jin-Roh showcasing the desks of different stakeholders with videos of them explaining their job, which is really neat. You can also try your hand at synchronization and lend your voice to good ol’ Astroy Boy.
One small downside is that the museum is not completely synchronized in English. All the main attractions are I think, but there’s still some stuff you probably won’t be able to figure out. Speaking Japanese would definitely increase your enjoyment, as there is also a large manga & anime collection that you could probably spend days browsing. Even without being able to speak the language, I was able to find some real gems (and sneakily take forbidden pictures because c’mon, when are you ever gonna get your hands on a Tiger Mask special again?!)
I cannot recommend the Edo-Tokyo museum highly enough. As the title indicates, it is dedicated to showcasing Tokyo in the Edo period, and it does so in a very expansive and fascinating way, ranging from scale models to old artefacts to reconstructions of historical buildings. Everything is available in English and you can spend hours here. The museum seems to cover pretty much every aspect of life from that time period, from buildings to everyday living conditions, to economic and social conditions, and so much more. Great place.