Minka-en is one of the most interesting places you are likely to visit here in Japan. Located in Kawasaki, just a stone’s throw away from Tokyo and Yokohama, the Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum has had a lot of thought and love put into it. Beautifully laid out, easy to walk, and full of surprises at every turn, it is the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon. There’s even a soba shop (the soba is delicious) in one of the old folk houses here, so if you want to spend a morning and lunch AND afternoon, you can do that too!
The park includes 24 perfectly preserved old Japanese buildings (mainly houses) that have been relocated here from their original locations all over Japan. The designers of the park have cleverly grouped houses together by area, depending on what part of Japan they came from. I guess if you had the time and money, you could visit each of the original areas and see houses just like these in their natural habitat, but that’s not necessary now: They’re all here, and they are all authentic.
Besides actual houses (and the things inside them), they also have an outdoor Kabuki amphitheater, a watermill, a dye workshop, and a ferryman’s hut. I bet you haven’t seen many of those!
The houses are beautiful, all in their own way, with a lot of gorgeous dark wood on the floors. Some of them are quite large and were originally owned by rich merchants, or local big shots. Others are simpler and even have space under the same roof for horses and other livestock. To heat the homes, many of them have Japanese style fireplaces sunk into the floor of the main living space. These fires were used to not only for heating, but for cooking as well.
You can enter many of the homes and look around. If you want to sit on the tatami floors, you will have to remove your shoes, so wear something you can easily slip on and off!
I had a great time here, and had little trouble imagining what life must have been like hundreds of years ago here in Japan.
*Special thanks to Mr. Masanori Takeuchi of the KSGG. He guided me the entire day and was full of knowledge, hospitality, and good will!