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Visitors are intrigued by the buildings at the Minato City Museum of Local History's "Minato City Tatemono Watching!

Translated from Japanese by
The Minato City Museum of Local History opened in 2018 (Heisei 30) as a center for in-depth knowledge and interaction with the nature, history, and culture of Minato City. In addition to the permanent exhibition where visitors can learn about the history of Minato City, the museum also holds special exhibitions from time to time, including the summer vacation exhibition "Minato City Architectural Watching - Visit Temples and Western-style Buildings," which will be held until September 18, 2023. The exhibit includes photographs and drawings of historical buildings in Minato City, as well as building materials actually used in the construction of these buildings. We visited this special exhibition where you can see many valuable materials, such as components used in the main hall of a temple and stained glass in Western-style buildings.

Summer vacation special exhibition is now being held to showcase the highlights of the building, including Japanese-style architecture and Western-style buildings.

The Minato City Museum of Local History is a 1-minute walk from Shirokanedai Subway Station. Admission to the special exhibition alone is 200 yen for adults and 100 yen for elementary, junior high, and high school students, while a combination ticket with the permanent exhibition is 400 yen for adults and 100 yen for elementary, junior high, and high school students.

The summer vacation exhibition "Minato City Architectural Watching: Let's Visit Temples and Western-style Buildings" was planned with the hope that many people will learn about architecture, which is not often taught in schools. The Minato City Museum of Local History itself is a historic building that was built in 1938 as the "Old Public Health Center," which has been preserved and renovated. It was designed by Shozo Uchida, who also designed the Yasuda Auditorium at the University of Tokyo, and the building itself is open to the public as an exhibit.

The special exhibition is held in the special exhibition room on the second floor. The first thing that caught my eye was a large member of wood assembled together. This is a member called "tokyo," which supports the roof of the main hall of a temple and was placed on top of the pillars. This is an important member that supports the large roof, and it is said that it is made by tightly assembling the members without using nails. The temple building technique was introduced from China about 1,500 years ago along with Buddhism, and is said to have had a great influence on Japanese-style architecture in Japan. When seen up close, the parts are much larger than expected, and the meticulous work with no gaps is remarkable.

Japanese-style architecture and wood are inseparable, and its history can be felt not only in the technique of combining wood, but also in the design of wood carvings. Ranma" is a space divider, placed between a Kamoi gate and the ceiling of a Japanese-style room, for lighting and ventilation. It is clear that they were not just partitions, but also a form of decoration that was uniquely Japanese, depending on the design.

Tiles are another essential component of Japanese-style architecture. Tiles are made by hardening clay to form a shape, drying it, and then baking it to complete the process, and can be made in a variety of shapes. The "onigawara" tiles, which are placed at both ends at the top of the roof, are said to be uniquely designed for each building, so I wanted to check them out and compare designs when visiting temples and shrines.

A puzzle for your room? Westernization of architecture has changed floor plans

In the modern era, Western-style architecture began to be incorporated into Japanese buildings. This "Kenchiku Madori Jizai" was published in 1924 (Taisho 13) and has many pieces related to houses, such as tatami mats, hallways, toilets, and baths, which were used when considering the layout of a building. There are pieces for Western-style rooms as well as tatami rooms, indicating that changes were occurring in architecture at this time.

Stained glass adorns the unique space of a Western-style building. This one was used in Soichiro Asano's residence. Photographs taken around 1928 show that stained glass was already being used for lighting in the corridor. Colorful and gorgeous stained glass, which is different from transoms, is one of the symbols of Western-style architecture.

As the culture of Western architecture entered Japan, lighting was also created to brighten not only the area where you are, but also the entire space. Also, instead of using fusuma (sliding doors) and shoji screens to separate large rooms, as in Japanese architecture, Western-style architecture now has rooms that can be properly locked, and this change in architecture has led to a shift in thinking toward respect for the individual.

You can actually see the places where the items shown in the exhibition were used and buildings from a similar period in the port district! Many of the buildings are still in existence, so please visit them after you leave the History Museum.

Recovery from the Great Kanto Earthquake and increased awareness of disaster prevention

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which occurred 100 years ago on September 1, 1923, caused extensive damage to Tokyo and Kanagawa. The earthquake caused a large fire in a wide area, which burned until the morning of September 3, and many people lost their lives and homes. This picture scroll depicting the Great Kanto Earthquake shows which areas were severely damaged.

In the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake, the creation of safe cities became an important issue. Schools and other facilities were reconstructed using reinforced concrete, the most advanced technology of the time, and were made earthquake-proof and noncombustible. And in addition to protecting lives, schools and research institutes also began to emphasize the importance of protecting books and other research materials.

The fire shutters were installed in the windows of the library stacks in this very building, which was the former Public Health Institute. At that time, it was not possible to easily back up books and documents with data, as is the case today. The sturdy-looking fireproof shutters suggest that for scholars, research data and materials were the most important thing next to life. By learning about the history of the building, we also learned about changes in people's lifestyles and ways of thinking.

Learn more about the history and transition of Minato Ward at the permanent exhibition.

In the permanent exhibition rooms on the 3rd and 4th floors, the history of Minato City facing Tokyo Bay is traced through shell mounds and inner bay fishery, and modern and contemporary urban development and modern life are unraveled through the many materials and exhibits.

Be sure to check out the permanent exhibition as well, as there are many exhibits that are rarely seen elsewhere, such as the gravestones of dogs and cats from the Edo period and a diorama reproduction of the Takanawa Chikkemi embankment.

You can touch the real materials! Lots of free exhibits!

The free area is also well-equipped, with a guidance room on the second floor that introduces visitors to images and touch panels showing the appearance and daily life of Minato Ward from primitive and ancient times to the present day.

Other must-see spots include the Communication Room on the second floor, where you can touch authentic materials such as a whale skeleton specimen and Jomon pottery, and the old auditorium on the fourth floor, which has 340 seats with staircase-like desks and chairs, clocks, lights, and other features that are well preserved from the time of construction.

In addition, the "Origami Architecture Exhibition" is being held in the 4th floor gallery until August 30, 2023. Various buildings are represented three-dimensionally using two-folded paper, allowing visitors to experience the structural beauty of the buildings. The Minato City Museum of Local History is full of information and exhibits that will make walking around Minato City more enjoyable! Why not visit?

Minato City Museum of History
4-6-2 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Open: 9:00 - 17:00 (until 20:00 on Saturdays only)
Closed: 3rd Thursday of each month (Wednesday of the previous day if the day is a national holiday), year-end and New Year holidays (December 29-January 3), and special closing periods
Admission to the permanent exhibition: 300 yen for adults, 100 yen for elementary, junior high, and high school students.
Admission is free for elementary, junior high, and high school students residing or attending school in Minato City, persons 65 years of age or older residing in Minato City, and disabled persons residing in Minato City and one caregiver (proof of disability required).
Special exhibitions and special exhibitions are extra.

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