A journey through the Meiji era: Meiji-mura, Inuyama, Aichi

There are many museums all over Japan that keep the remainings of the past eras. Among them, one of the most famous and prominent museum is situated at Inuyama of Aichi prefecture. Many main buildings and other structures of Meiji era of ancient Japan are collected and rebuilt here. This architectural museum has 67 different structures rebuilt in a wide area of about one-kilometer square. The idea of rebuilding these structures collected from all around the nation was done by Yoshiro Taniguchi and Moto Tsuchikawa and it was opened to the public in 1974.


This museum is situated in a calm woody area on the banks of the Iru Ike (Iru lake). The entire appearance of this museum gives a feeling of an ancient time. Meiji era has much importance in the history of Japan as it marks the end of the feudal rule of the nation. It was from 1868 to 1912. Many buildings and structures are the residences of the final feudal lords and other officials of Japan. A western influence is reflected in the architectural features of many of the buildings and structures. Since this museum is extending along a vast area, transportation services are offered by small buses, trams and steam locomotives inside the museum. Ten buildings among these are regarded as the ‘Most important cultural properties’. The entire area is divided into five sub-areas each of which has around fifteen to twenty different structures in it.

The main gate of the museum is the gate of one of the national schools of Japan from Nagoya.  From there, our journey to the other attractions begins. Among the thirteen different structures of the first area, the important attractions are the St. John’s Church of Kyoto, Mie Prefectural school building, Mie Prefectural office, Entrance porch of blind school from Tokyo, a butcher house of Kobe, and so on. The school building has two classrooms are some teaching and learning accessories kept inside. This school was functioning until 1972. Portraits of some famous personalities of the Meiji period including the president, writers etc. are displayed in one corner of this school structure.

The second area is comprised of the district office building of Yamanashi, Telephone exchange of Sapporo, Yasuda bank’s branch, a police box from Kyoto, a sake brewer etc. The telephone exchange here is one among the most important cultural properties.

The third area has some models of Kyoto’s streetcars, ruins of a foreign settlement of Nagasaki, Prince’s villa, a teahouse, a foreigner’s house from Kobe, etc. Most of the main attractions are situated in the last two areas of the museum. The fourth area involves a barber shop, a Gymnasium of martial arts, steam locomotives, Hospital buildings, Japanese Evangelical church of US, post office building from Uji, and so on. Street cars of Kyoto are the first railway street cars of the nation. They are still in service inside the museum area. Visitors can make a ride to the museum area in these ancient locomotives. The hospital building of Japanese Red Cross society rebuilt here has a big building with separate wards. This area has another hospital building remainings from Nagoya also. There is a reddish painted iron bridge (first one of this kind in Japan) found in this area near which one of the steam locomotives are also displayed. Uji Yamada post office still functions by providing service. Visitors can send mails from here with the stamping of Meiji era.

The last and the fifth area has the famous St. Francis Xavier Cathedral ofKyoto, Head office of a bank from Tokyo, main gate of Kanazawa Prison, alibrary, a police box from Tokyo, some bridges, district court of Kyoto, aphoto studio, Main Entrance hall and lobby of the Tokyo’s Imperial Hoteletc. The Teikoku hotel (Imperial hotel) remaining is one of the importantattractions of this museum. Even though it consists of only the lobby andthe entrance hall, the building is really huge and it is a clear monument forexplaining the architectural development of Japan during that ancienttimes. Situated near the north gate of the museum, this building behind asmall pool with a fountain and surrounded by greenery of woods and lawnsis a magnificent structure. The cathedral building is enormous withbeautifully painted huge glass windows. Some parts of the Maebashi prisonof Gunma prefecture is also rebuilt here. Very safe and strong prison wallsmade of wooden logs could be experienced from inside.

Every year this museum is visited by native and foreign tourists. The tranquil woody area has small water bodies with Japanese Koi fishes (carp), a thick green forest area with various birds, gardens with vast lawns and beautiful small waterfalls, ancient types of lamps on both sides, wells etc. Music is played in some parts of the forest area and buildings including the churches. The entire atmosphere is well maintained for giving the visitors with a perfect feeling of travel through the Meiji era. Along with nice and beautiful gardens, many cafes, souvenir shops, restaurants, game zones etc. are also built in this place.

A journey to this museum is helpful for students and researchers for learning about the history of Japan as Meiji era is recorded as the period of structural and cultural innovations in Japan. Seeing these kinds of ancient structures, we could understand how far the current development of Japan from that point of time is. Brochure of the museum has the name and other features of every structure explained in it. It is available on their website.

Access: From JR Nagoya to JR Inuyama by Meitetsu line (30 min) and from there by Meitetsu bus to Meiji-mura(20 min).