OFFBEAT AND UNUSUAL MUSEUMS AND TOURS IN THE TOKYO AREA

OFFBEAT MUSEUMS IN TOKYO

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Sumo Museum (near Ryogoku Station on the JR Sobu Line) is located within the Ryugoku Kokugikan sumo wrestling arena. It basically is a 150 square meter room with a revolving display of sumo-related memorabilia chosen from the museum’s vast collection, which includes 3,600 woodblock prints, 5,700 photographs, 560 keepsakes and personal items that have belonged to wrestlers. The displays are changed every two months. About 70 people visit the museum a day, increasing to around 400 during the tournaments. Websites: sumo museum site sumo.or.jp ; JNTO article JNTO

Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum (short walk along Koshu-kaido Road from Shinjuku Station) contains an impressive collection of 30,000 clothes from around the world. Only a small portion of the collection is shown at one time. There are everything from rare silks form the 8th century to modern fashions by Kenzo Takada and Yohji Yamamoto, who studied at the Bunka fashion College, which is affiliated with the museum. Websites: Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum site bunka.ac.jp

Edo-Tokyo Tatemonen (next to Koganei Park, 5 minute bus ride from Musashi-Koganeu Station on the JR Chuo Line) is an open air museum that brings to life the Japanese bathhouse experience. It boasts a impressive 40-square meter penki-e painting of Mt. Fuji. The bathouse was used as a model for the Yuya bathhouse in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The open-air museum also features other kinds of old style buildings.

House of the Insect Poet (10 minute walk from Sendago subway station in Bunkyo Ward) is an insect museum inspired by a Japanese translation of famous poem about insects by the French poet Jean-Henri Fabre. Opened in 2006 in a building designed to resemble a cocoon, it houses specimens of insects and butterflies from around the world. Most of the specimens belong to a scholar of French literature who began collecting insects in the forth grade and has since collected 100,000 specimens,

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department offers special tours five times a day (9:00am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm and 3:30pm). The tour includes stops at the Police Museum, Communications Control Center and the Traffic Control Center. Reservations need to be made in advance. This can be done by contacting the Public Relations Department of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police by fax (☎ 81-3-3581-3924).

Earthquake Museums

Shinagawa City Disaster Prevention Center (Shinagawa City) has an in house theater, where you can experience an earthquake via shaking seats and a 15-minute 3-D film of debris falling around you. The theater was established as instructional tool for school children but visitors are welcome. Twenty sets of English headphones are available. . Website: Shinagawa City Disaster Prevention site city.shinagawa.tokyo.jp

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TEPCO Museum
Earthquake Museum (Kita Ward, near the Nishigahara Station on the Naboku subway line) is a three story museum with a special room where visitors can experience the shaking of an earthquake measuring up to 6.9 on the Richter scale, the intensity of the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

There is also a smoke room, where visitors are taught to squat down and exit to avoid inhaling the artificial smoke. Visitors also get a chance to extinguish a real fire with a fire extinguisher and told how to avoid being hit on the head by falling furniture. There are also exhibition rooms where people can watch videos of major Japanese earthquakes and view a world map that shows major earthquake zones. Website: Tokyo Essentials tokyoessentials.com

Honjo Life Safety Learning Center (Sumida Ward) simulates an earthquake and fire in a 3-D theater. There is also a room that simulates a storm with wind sped of 30 meters per second. Also known as the Tokyo Fire Department’s Life Safety Learning Center, it has free admission but reservations required. Website: tfd.metro.tokyo.lg.jp

Ryotaro Maeda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Life Safety Learning Center tours are given only in Japanese, but they begin with a film dramatizing the need for disaster preparedness, with English subtitles available. The film is of surprisingly high quality, and is new enough to include views of Tokyo SkyTree standing intact among the ruins of a near-future earthquake-devastated Tokyo.English subtitles are also available on a video explaining what to do when an earthquake hits. [Source: Ryotaro Maeda, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 4, 2012]

“Activities on the tour include learning to use a fire extinguisher and navigating through a maze of dimly lit corridors filled with artificial smoke. The highlight is sitting in a mock-up of a typical household kitchen inside an earthquake-simulation machine. When the room begins to shake, get under the table. The jolts are alarmingly powerful.”

Small Offbeat Museums

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Ghibli Musem
Small Offbeat Museums include the Kite Museum (Ginza), a small place stuffed with hundreds of kites; the the world's largest Paper Museum; the Da Vinci Museum (Hibiya Park); the Tobacco and Salt Museum; the Fugu Museum, dedicated to puffer fish and puffer fish cuisine; the Silk Museum; and the Ryoguku Fireworks Museum, where models of fireworks, coats worn by pyrotechnicians and woodblock prints of fireworks are displayed

Basho Museum (Koto Ward) is devoted to Japan’s most beloved poet. Origami House (one minute walk from Hakusan Station in Bunkyo Ward) is a small space with some incredibly complex designs.

Rainwater Museum opened in May, 2001 to pay tribute to rain and its role in the origin of life. The 50-item collection includes a five-ton Sri Lankan water tank, a net used on Peru to extract water from fog. Hidden under a railway bridge near Minami-Senju station is a large statue known as Jizo of the Cut necks, which marks the spot of the old Kozukabara execution grounds. By some counts more than 200,000 criminals and political rebels were beheaded or tied to wooden crosses here. Nearby was the Bridge of Tears, where the family of the condemned saw their lived ones for the last time.

Suginami Animation Museum

Suginami Animation Museum (Suginami Ward, Ogikubo Station on the JR Chuo Line and the Tokyo Metro Subway Marunouchi Line) visitors a chance not only to see exhibits representing Japan’s quality anime and other visual culture but also to experience a bit of anime production by themselves through various hands-on events.

Ryuya Hara, wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The ward government set up the museum in 2005 to gain greater exposure for Japanese anime at home and abroad. The ward is home to many anime production companies, such as Sunrise, which produced “Kido Senshi Gundam” (Mobile Suit Gundam) . Visitors may be first enthralled by the thick pillar at the center of the museum. It bears the images of popular anime characters such as Fukuzo Moguro, Joe Yabuki and the conductor of “Galaxy Express 999.” These images, all hand-drawn by their anime creators or professional animators, are on display along with the autographs of anime creators and voice actors. [Source: Ryuya Hara, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 13, 2014]

“The pillar at the center of the museum bears autographs and illustrations of popular manga artists. The most popular hands-on event is the chance to play a voice actor dubbing an anime. Visitors can record their own voices for an anime scene and play it back. “Honto datteba, Atomu Oni-chan!” (It’s certainly true, Atom!) . Miyu Irioka, 11, recorded herself reading the line shown on the display, performing the role of Uran, the younger sister of the protagonist of“Astro Boy.” “I just end up reading in a monotone if I don’t get in tune with the character’s feelings,” Irioka said. She repeated the line many times into the microphone until she was satisfied with the result.

“Some other hands-on events are enjoyable even for people who are not especially crazy about anime, such as “parapara anime,” a program in which your own drawings are recorded frame by frame and then played back as anime on the screen of a personal computer. Perusing panels and chronological tables depicting the history of anime is also fun. They begin with “Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki” (The story of the concierge Mukuzo Imokawa), which is said to be the oldest Japanese anime, produced in 1917. From there, the depicted history continues all the way up to the current global hit “ONE PIECE.” These displays illustrate well how anime images, which were first hand-drawn, have become the sophisticated and realistic images of today due to the development of digital technology such as computer graphics.

“Visitors can also watch past masterpieces on a large screen. “Popular anime in Japan soon become popular overseas, too,” said Rena Ishikawa, a staff member at the museum. “I’m surprised to hear foreign visitors here talk about the latest anime, such as ‘shingeki no Kyojin’ (Attack on Titan) .” The number of visitors from the United States and China is increasing, she also said.” Hours Open: 10:00am to 6:00pm (admission until 5:30pm) . Closed Mondays and during the year-end and New Year holiday season. Admission: free. Tel: (03) 3396-1510

Transportation Museum in the Tokyo Area

Subway Museum (Edogawa Ward) has some old subway cars and turnstiles. The star attraction is a $1 million system that simulates a run on the Chiyoda Line with three 100-inch screens and a control panel. Visitors can virtually drive the subway and feel the bumps as it moves along.

Railway Museum (Omiya Ward, Saitama) opened in 2007 as a replacement for the Transportation Museum in Tokyo which closed in 2006. Covering 28,200 square meters, the new three-story museum has much more exhibition space than the museum in Tokyo. Attractions include 30 old trains, including a Series 0 Shinkansen, Japan’s first locomotive (which began operation in 1871); a simulators that give visitors a chance to feel what it is like to drive a steam engine; and a 200-square-meter display of model trains. Many of the displays have touch screens that give information in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese. In 2010, the Railway Museum in Sataima introduced classes in train operation using 25 simulators provided by East Japan Railway. Students wear white gloves like real train operators. The classes are popular with high school students and middle-aged men.Admission is ¥1,000 for adults. The simulators cost extra. More than 2.4 million people the museum in the first year and a half it was open. Japan has a lot of train freaks. Website: Railway Museum site railway-museum.jp

Train and Bus Museum (underneath the Tokyu Denentoshi Line’s elevated track at Miyazakidai in Kawasaki) is a thrilling place for rail fans. Four kinds of simulators allow visitors to feel like a real train driver, ranging from one for kids to full-fledged equipment based on software for real crew members. Yasunori Kuroha wrote in the Japan News: “The 8090-series’ simulator-at 300 yen ($2.60 US) per use-features a real master controller and speedometer used in a Tokyu 8090-series train. Visitors can choose from different types of train service, such as a local train or special express, as well as routes such as the Shibuya-Jiyugaoka leg on the Toyoko Line and the Nagatsuta-Azamino leg on the Denentoshi Line. [Source: Yasunori Kuroha, Japan News, January 27, 2017]

“The scenery visible from the driver’s cab and in-train announcements are also accurately replicated. Aimed at advanced-level visitors, the expert mode simulator re-creates morning rush-hour operations without audio guidance. Users must deftly adjust the train’s speed so it will arrive on time. A train may shoot past a station if the brakes are not applied at the right time.

“The kids’ simulator section for children is easy to handle. Visitors can drive a 5000-series train painted with their favorite color in computer graphics. They also can design a paper craft and purchase it for 200 yen The wooden building that formerly served as Takatsu Station stands out. The building was moved to the museum when it opened near the station in 1982.

”The building still looks the same, even after the museum’s relocation to its current site in 2003 due to the quadrupling of rail tracks near the station. The pillars of the building-constructed in 1927-have turned brown and look well-seasoned. Retro trains and buses dating to the Showa era (1926-1989) are also on display at the museum, bringing a nostalgic feeling. Kyoko Nakanishi, a 33-year-old woman from Yokohama, came with her 3-year-old son. “There are various kinds of trains, and my child never gets bored. My parents’ generation feels nostalgic about the station buildings and train cars. Next time I want to bring my parents,” Nakanishi said.”“ Location: The museum is run by Tokyu Corp. and consists of two buildings. Building A houses simulators for 8090-series trains and model trains, as well as the former Takatsu Station building. Attractions for children are in Building B. On the evening of February 24, an event will be held where visitors can enjoy the museum while drinking alcohol. Participants must be aged 20 or older. Hours Open: 10:00amto 4:30pm Closed Thursdays (closed on Friday if Thursday is a national holiday) and during the year-end and New Year period. Admission: ¥200 for high school students or older; ¥100 for children from the age of 3 to junior high school students.

Food Museums and Tours in the Tokyo Area

Suntory Musashino brewery (in Fuchu, western Tokyo) opened in 1963 and is where Premium Malt’s is brewed. Here visitor’s can tour of the production line, listen to a lecture and enjoy a beer-tasting package.

Noda (30 kilometers north of Tokyo) is regarded as the soy sauce capital of Japan. The main Kikkoman factory is here. It covers 92,000 square meters and produces 200 million liters of soy sauce a year (20 percent of the soy sauce used in Japan ). Reservations are necessary for an 80-minute tour that includes watching a 15-minute video and a guided tour of the plant. Admission is free. Visitors are given a free small bottle of soy sauce. Call ☎ 0471-23-5136 for information. Several old wooden houses, storehouses and gardens have been preserved. The Kamihanawa Rekishikan museum explains the history soy sauce production and has displays on the subject. Website: Offical Kikkoman site kikkoman.com

Japan Cup Noodle Museum (Yokohama, Minatomirai line Minatomirai Station) was opened by Japan's Nissin Foods in Yokohama in 2011. The museum contains a section where visitors can create their own noodles: kneading flour, rolling out noodles, and steaming and frying them to make chicken ramen which is then put into bags. In another area of the museum called "My Cup Noodle Factory", visitors can design cups, put dried noodles in them and pick toppings and broth for their own versions of cupped meals. It is possible to create more than 5,000 different versions.[Source: Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP, September 17, 2011]

The museum exhibits packages of Nissin instant noodles from around the world and houses restaurants that serve food such as Vietnamese pho noodles and pasta from Italy. There are giant cup noodle containers in the museum for children to play in. "We opened this place... as a factory that gives children experience and a museum for corporate activities," Nissin Foods Holdings president Koki Ando told AFP. The museum is Nissin's second devoted to instant noodles. The other one opened in the Osaka area in 1999. The multi-storey Yokohama museum has a total floor space of 10,000 square metres (107,600 square feet) -- three times bigger than the Osaka museum. Location: 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001, Tel: 045-345-0918 (Information); Hours Open: 10:00am-6:00pm (Last admission is at 17:00). Getting There: By Train: Minatomirai line, eight minute walk from the Minatomirai Station; JR/Shieichikatetsu, 12 minute walk from the JR/Shieichikatetsu Sakuragicho Station

Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

Ramen Museum(Yokohama, ((JR Tokaido Line, Shinyokohama Station)) draws five million visitors a year, more than any other museum in Japan. Opened in 1994 and officially known as the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, it contains silver earrings shaped like ramen noodles, an exhibit on the history of noodles, noodle video games, a package of the first instant noodles ever sold and a special edition cup-of-ramen with Arnold Schwarzenegger's picture on it.

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is a unique museum on ramen noodles as well as a small theme park that recreates a town of the Showa period (about 50 years ago) . You can taste selected ramen restaurants from across the nation. Nine ramen shops, set-up to replicate a 1950’s street scene, serve specialty ramen dishes from across Japan — including miso, soy sauce, salt and tonkotsu pork broth among others. Visit the gallery to learn the history of how ramen noodles first came from China and later evolved into the distinctive present-day Japanese delicacy. The museum shop even gives visitors the chance to create their very own brand of ramen! The Ramen Museum is just 45 minutes from Tokyo by train.

You can also see 230 ramen bowls collected from shops around Japan and uniforms worn by workers at famous shops. The museum shop sells things like ramen-bowl key chains and books on ramen history. Long lines form at museum's nine ramen restaurants, each with its own kind of noodles. Season passes are available. Location: 46 2-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa. Admission: Adult (13 or older) 310yen Child (6 to 12) and seniors(60over) 100yen. Free. for children younger than 6 years old. Hours Open: Business Hours: 11:00am-9:00pm. Ramen shops take orders until 30 minutes before closing time. From 10:30 on Sundays and holidays, longer hours on some days). It is open most everyday. Occasionally closed for maintenance. Getting There: From Yokohama (15 minutes): Directions: Yokohama to Shinyokohama (Yokohama City Subway). Leave the subway station from Exit 8 and walk for several minutes.. From Tokyo (50 minutes):Tokyo→Yokohama (JR Tokaido Line)→Shinyokohama (Yokohama City Subway). From Shinjuku (50 minutes): Shinjuku→Shibuya (JR Yamanote Line)→Kikuna Tokyu Toyoko Line →Shinyokohama (JR Yokohama Line)→Shinyokohama. Websites: Official museum site: raumen.co.jp; Tokyo Food Page bento.com ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com

Gohan (Rice) Museum

Gohan Museum (first floor of the Tokyo International Forum in Marunouchi Tokyo) is a museum devoted totally to gohan (rice). Set up by the JA agricultural cooperative in 2006, it features displays on rice, a cooking studio, library with over a 1,000 rice-related books and of corse a restaurant that serves rice dishes. In the football-shaped Media Ball, the walls are dominated by high-definition screen images of golden ready-to-harvest rice, accompanied by rice-paddy sounds and the smell of earth and rice. The museum's aim are to promote rice and rice products and increase awareness for Japan’s staple food. The museum’s shop has a wide selection of rice-based cosmetics. Judging from the events and displays, the museum’s target group are Japanese housewives and their children.

The exhibition is separated in various theme area. At the entrance is a ring-shaped display with scenes about rice-growing. Children can play rice-related computer games, save onigiri from burning on the grill or assemble their favorite sushi). Visitors can try their skills with chopsticks and marvel at a great variety of onigiri plastic models. There is a recipe area and a library with comfortable chairs and shelves filled with books and magazines about rice or food in general. A big part of the museum is the event and cooking space where lectures are given and seminars are held.

Address: Tokyo International Forum Building A, 1F, 3-5-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005, Tel. 03-3211-1631. Hours Open: 11:00am-7:00pm daily. The affiliated Gohan Café is open from 11am-11pm, but last orders have to be made by 10pm. Admission: Free. Getting There: The Gohan Museum is located in the Tokyo International Forum 1F of the A Building. It is easy to find, with the museum name written all over the wide glass front. One minute walk from JR Yurakucho Station. Five minute walk from Marunouchi or Yaesu South Exit of Tokyo Station (JR, Metro) Website: yoi-shoku.jp/ (Japanese only)

Kewpie Mayonnaise Factory and Museum

Kewpie Mayonnaise Factory (200 meters from Sengawa Station, Keio Line) offers a free tour for visitors to see how the mayo is made and what is inside it that has made Kewpie mayonnaise so popular and so distinctly Japanese. Kade Delis of Taiken Japan wrote: For almost one hundred years, the Kewpie Corporation has made and distributed mayonnaise all over Japan and now the world. The tour begins in the brightly lit lobby with furniture shaped like different vegetables. The guides explain the history of mayonnaise beginning in France and then moving its way to Japan. Kyuichiro Nakashima first brought mayonnaise to Japan in 1915. To add more taste to their product, the Kewpie Corporation added soy sauce, rice vinegar, rapeseed, and soybeans. It took time though for Japanese to accept this strange new sauce. When first brought to stores it was often mistaken for hair wax. But soon people were using it on all their foods like okonomiyaki and yakisoba. [Source:Kade Delis, Taiken Japan July 26, 2015]

“To appeal to young people, the Kewpie character was created. It took inspiration from children’s dolls that were popular at the time. Today that cute character is synonymous with Kewpie mayonnaise and is printed on every bottle. Next on the tour they explain that mayonnaise is different in every country. In Europe and America it is white with a salty taste and mostly used to put on sandwiches. In Thailand it is a spicy sauce with wasabi in it. In China it is sweet and eaten with fruit. The Japanese though have many uses for this tasty, thick, white sauce and their mayo is more vinegary than its western counterpart. After the different mayonnaise was presented, they pointed out the newest mayonnaises that are coming out. Some with fewer calories, vegan mayonnaise, and less vinegar mayonnaise.

“Within the tour, there was an animated video on what mayo is made from. Like most Japanese tour videos this one featured lots of colorful animation, high-pitched voices to teach you how it’s done, and all ingredients to mayo (vinegar, salt, egg yolks, and soy sauce) were made into a character. Watching the video pointed out the different way Japanese mayo is and how the levels of vinegar and salt help keep it well preserved.

“After seeing what’s inside the mayonnaise, you get to see the fascinating way it gets made through the factory. You do not see the actual factory process the mayo, but instead get a walking video tour of it, which is faster and more entertaining for large groups. It starts with walking through an air blower that the staff uses everyday to remove dust and other particles. Then the guides lead you to a room where they show a video about the eggs being cracked then have their yolks and whites separated by a machine. The machine can split 600 eggs in one minute. Then they show what they use the remaining egg whites for. Some of these uses are cosmetics, chalk, and food.

“The end of the tour is the tastiest part. The guides take you to a cafeteria and show you the many recipes possible with mayonnaise such as mayonnaise baked shrimp and pancakes with mayo inside. Then you make a salad dressing out of mayo and marmalade along with your choice of seasoning. You can make your own delicious mayo dressing and bring the recipe home. The tour is free. You only have to make a reservation by phone or online. Their tour is at their company building in Sengawa, Tokyo.” Website: kewpie.co.jp

“In 2014 Kewpie unveiling the Mayo Terrace, a permanent dedicated museum space in Chofu, a suburb of Tokyo. The space allows visitors to learn about the history of the product, and includes a room called the Mayo Dome, a gigantic replica of a mayonnaise bottle built 500,000 larger than a regular one. The Mayo Terrace has proven to be a popular attraction for Kewpie fans, who can also snack on a range of special dishes in the Kewpie Kitchen on site. More information on visiting the new Kewpie cafés in Tokyo and Nagoya is available at their official website. Location: 2 Chome-5-7 Sengawacho, Chofu, Tokyo 182-0002

Pocky and Pretz Factory

Glico Pia East (Saitama, Takasaki Line to Kitamoto Station) shows the manufacturing processes of popular Glico snacks including Pocky and Pretz. It also has movies and hosts quiz sessions to teach visitors the history of the company and share product trivia. The factory holds workshops in which participants make confectionery. At the end of the tour, each visitor receives a customized package of Glico snacks. Reservations are needed to visit Glico Pia East. The factory’s tours are often fully booked. [Source: Akihito Teramura, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 23, 2012]

On Pocky Street factory tour you can observe the manufacturing process from finishing and packaging of Pocky. You can see the manufacturing process through windows. On the Pretz Street factory tour you can observe the manufacturing process of Pretz. The production line from mixing raw materials to finishing and packaging extends for 100 meters. Again you see the manufacturing process through windows. The flow of Pretz dough is astounding. Other stuff at the Glico Pia East includes the College hall, Glicopia East Glico's Toy Toy exhibition museum, Glicopia East Stadium Hall, Glicopia East Photo Studio Zone and the Glicopia East Deco Pocky mini factory.

Location: 9-55 Nakamaru, Kitamoto City, Saitama Prefecture 364-0013, Tel: 048-593- 8811. Admission: Free (reservation required); Hours Open: 9:30am to 4:00pm. Closed Fridays, Obon holiday in August, New Year holidays and factory maintenance days. Getting There: From Tokyo Station or Ueno Station take the Takasaki Line from to Kitamoto Station, East Exit. From Kitamoto Station you can take a taxi. Tell the taxi driver to take you to Glico Pia East. The fare should be no more than 1,500 yen. By bus from Kitamoto Station: Get on the green Ken-chan Bus. The fare for adults is 200 yen, children, 100 yen. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the Glico Factory Bus Stop. Website: glico.com/jp

Kirin Beer Factory Tour and Tasting

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village (northern Yokohama, Nama-mugi Station on the Keihin-Kyuko line) is one of nine factories of the Japan Kirin Group (Chitose, Sendai, Toride, Yokohama, Nagoya, Shiga, Kobe, Okayama, and Fukuoka) . Each factory offers free tours that last around 80 minutes. The Kirin Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. It was founded in Yokohama, a city that played a major role in Japan's adopting beer from the West and spreading it the rest of Japan. [Source: yokohamajapan.com]

According to Japan-Guide: “Kirin has a long history that is closely tied to the history of beer in Japan. After the opening of the country to foreign trade, beer began to thrive in Japan in the Meiji Period (1868-1912), and particularly so in the international port city of Yokohama. The Kirin Brewery Company itself was established in 1907, when two of the country's first breweries decided to unite their operations.”

The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Kirin and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds! According to the guide, 2000 cans of beer are filled and packed each and every minute. Near the end of the tour, a series of panels of Kirin’s history are on display. Tours are usually conducted in Japanese, but an English guide may also be available.

Beer Production involves boiling down barley to make mash and removing the chaff so the wort can be squeezed out. The bitterness and fragrance of the beer comes from adding hops to the wort and boiling it down again. The entire process takes place in a preparation chamber installed with nine boiling kettles, each 12 meters in diameter. Top quality beer are often made using only the first press of the wort. Fermenting takes place inside 129 huge tanks for a period of one or two months. Visitors can try the first and second press of the wort for comparisons as well as up to three glasses of draft beer drawn straight from the fermenting tanks.

As the tour nears completion you arrive at the “tasting bar”. Here, you receive tickets that you exchange for three glasses of fresh beer—your choice. The selections on tap are “Ichiban-shibori”, “Lager”, and “Stout” (black beer). There is also a small restaurant. Beforehand you go on the tour, to make sure you get a spot, it is recommended to make reservations by phone (045-503-8250) .

Location: Kirin Brewery Co. Yokohama Factory, 1-17-1, Namamugi, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, 230-8628, Tel: 045-503-8250; Hours Open: Closed: Monday (open if holiday), year end and new year holidays The tours are given to groups of between two to 100 people every 30 minutes, starting at 10:00am and finishing at 4:30pm. Admission: Free Getting There: Kirin Beer Village in Yokohama is a seven-minute walk south from Nama-mugi Station on the Keihin-Kyuko line. Closest Railway Stations: Shinkoyasu Station: JR Keihin Tohoku Line. Namamugi Station: Keihin Kyuko Line. The trip takes 20 minutes and costs 280 yen from Shinagawa or 13 minutes, 160 yen from Yokohama . The factory can also be reached by a 15 minute walk from JR Shin-Koyasu Station on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line. Website: kirin.co.jp/entertainment

Snoopy Museum Tokyo

The Snoopy Museum Tokyo (Minami-machida Grandberrypark Station) is the world’s only satellite of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA. It opened its doors in Roppongi in 2016 and then closed as planned in 2018 and reopened at “Minami-machida Grandberry Park” in Machida, Tokyo in December 2019.The new location is about twice the size of the previous one, and full of greenery. The Museum features multi-dimensional exhibitions that introduce the legacy of Charles M. Schulz and the whole Peanuts gang, consisting of original and reproduced comic strips, vintage goods and animation.

The original exhibition in Roppongi featured 84 original comic strips, an animated history of Snoopy, Snoopy-related memorabilia and products, and a Snoopy look-alike contest. There were a total of 1,000 versions of Snoopy appearing throughout the exhibition gallery. A Snoopy chandelier designed by artist Kim Songhe included over 100 Snoopy plushes. Charles Schulz said: “The early Snoopy didn’t think. He actually barked and ran around on all fours and was just kind of a cute little puppy and I don’t know how he got to walking and I don’t know how he first began to think, but that was probably one of the best things that I ever did.”

The "BROWN'S Store" is a place to find original Peanuts merchandise made exclusively for the Snoopy Museum, and the "Peanuts Cafe" located in the annex has an original menu for your dining pleasure. The Museum also contains exciting workshop programs such as making your own Snoopy plush dolls.

In order to ensure you have a great visit, the Snoopy Museum Tokyo recommends purchasing tickets in advance. Admission is divided into seven/eight time slots per day and there is a limit to the number of visitors that can be admitted per time slot. You are required to enter the museum within your admission time slot, but there is no time limit for your stay. Admission Advanced purchase: ¥1,800 for adults and university student; ¥800 for high school and junior high school students; and ¥ 400 elementary school students. On-site tickets are only sold when there is enough availability. They cost ¥200 more than the advanced purchase tickets. Location: Tsuruma 3-1-1, Machida-shi, Tokyo. Hours Open: Monday to Thursday 10:00 to 18:00 (admission until 17:30); Friday to Sunday and holidays 10:00 to 20:00 (admission until 19:30). Location: Four minute walk from Denentoshi Line Minami-machida Grandberrypark Station

Kawasaki Factory Night Bus Tours

According to unmissablejapan: On a Kawasaki Factory Night View Tour you get to visit carefully selected viewing spots by bus, including some areas that are not normally open to the public. These include the Nemoto Shipyard, from where you can get an excellent view of the surrounding factories. The tour also includes a stop for a ‘Factory Night View Curry’ at the Sky Restaurant Frontier, so ensuring that the tour provides stimulation for all of your senses. Tours run on the first and third Friday of every month, and depart from Kawasaki Station. The cost is ¥4,300, and bookings can be made through Tabi Plus One online, or by phone on 03-6436-0395. You can also make enquiries by email to 28syogyo@city.kawasaki.jp. The departure time varies from 5:00pm to 6:30pm depending on the time of year, and the tour lasts for about three hours and fifteen minutes. [Source: unmissablejapan]

Hato Bus run an alternative tour, called the Kawasaki Factory Night View Tour, which departs from Tokyo Station. It runs on Saturdays, plus some Fridays in summer, and it also promises to take you to Kawasaki’s best factory-viewing spots, including areas around the waterfront that are otherwise off-limits. The tour begins with a stop at Kawasaki’s Korea Town for yakiniku, and then spends two hours touring viewing spots around Kawasaki. The tours leave from Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi South Exit at 4:20pm. (Turn left after leaving the station to find the Hato Bus stops, and the Hato Bus office.) It arrives back at Tokyo Station at 9:30pm, and costs ¥5,980 including food. You can book on line by going to Hato Bus’s website, and entering the tour’s code, R294, into the search box. Alternatively you can book by phone on 03-3201-2725, at the Hato Bus office at Tokyo Station, or through many travel agents.

Yasuko Onda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “It’s 4:20pm sharp. I'm about to board a bus packed with 41 other passengers in front of JR Tokyo Station. Once aboard, we're heading down to Kawasaki, to discover the best viewing spots for seeing the area’s factories by night. I'd wanted to take this factory viewing tour since first hearing about it two years ago. It all started when I saw the 2010 Japanese film Running on Empty. I was fascinated by a magnificent night scene in which a factory complex ablaze with lights dwarfed the film’s characters running in the foreground. [Source: Yasuko Onda, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 25, 2012]

“First, food. We fill our stomachs with yakiniku at Kawasaki’s Korea Town before reboarding the bus. We then pass through the waterfront area along Tokyo Bay before arriving at the factory complex. Supported by the factories, the tours have operated regularly since spring 2010.They are immensely popular and are almost always booked out.

“The tour begins after our sumptuous yakiniku feast. Two popular volunteer tour guides--Nobue Wakai and Haruko Kuni--board the bus. "Are you fascinated by ducting?" begins Wakai, as row of pipes in the factory district come into view. "The scenery here is more than factory fans could ever hope for," Wakai said. "The area is surprisingly neat and relaxing." This artificial aesthetic seems to be one of the reasons for the area’s popularity. We then head to Kawasaki Mari-en, specifically its observatory on the 10th floor. The sprawling industrial zone lies before us, a myriad of lights shimmering in the night. "These lights aren't simply for show--they're lit up because the factories are in operation," Wakai said.

“After visiting Mari-en, the bus moves from one viewing spot to another. Among them, the view in front of the municipal pier is fantastic--the factories' lights are reflected along in-house railway lines and smoke rising from various chimneys recedes into the shadows. Looking around, I see a flare stack, its red flames soaring high into the sky.

“The scenery around me is both exotic and overwhelming. "Hydrogen vapor is clearly visible in winter. This vapor completely transforms the landscape--when it appears, the atmosphere becomes more uplifting," Kuni explained. Despite the freezing temperatures, I'm glad I signed up this tour during winter. From that moment, time passes by in a flash. Gazing out at Haneda Airport from the bus windows, we enjoy watching the flare stacks that illuminate airplanes taking off and landing from the airport nearby. The sprawling factory complex looks like a castle of lights. As we make our way back to Tokyo via the metropolitan expressway, we are spellbound by the factory lights snaking along the route. At the end of the tour, our guides teach us traditional waterfront greetings. Instead of using "hi" and "bye," workers say "Goanzen ni" (Be safe). The Hato Bus tour "Kawasaki factory night" operates every Saturday, departing from Tokyo Station. It last for five hours. For more information and reservations, call (03) 3761-1100.

Yokohama Factory Night Cruises

According to unmissablejapan: “On the Yokohama Factory Night Scenery Cruise you follow a course along the shoreline of Tokyo Bay on a small boat that carries up to 25 people, passing major industrial zones in Yokohama and the neighbouring city of Kawasaki. You enter a system of canals that give the giant plants direct access to the sea, so that at some points you’re surrounded by industrial activity on all sides. The cruise takes around ninety minutes, and runs year-round, but it must be booked in advance. It costs ¥3,500 and leaves from Yokohama at 7:00pm every Friday to Sunday, and at 8:00pm on Thursdays. To reserve your place call 045-263-9360 as soon as possible, as it often sells out, and be sure to confirm the departure point and time as they are subject to variation. Cruises usually leave from Yokohama Paradise, which is next to the Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel, just five minutes walk from Minatomirai Station. To get there from Tokyo, first travel to Yokohama Station. Either take the Tokaido Line from Tokyo Station (26 minutes, ¥450) or the Shonan Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku Station (33 minutes, ¥540) . From Yokohama Station, Minatomirai Station is just three minutes away on the Minatomirai Line (¥180). [Source: unmissablejapan]

“Yokohama Cruise offer the Factory Night View Jungle Cruise, covering approximately the same route, for ¥4,500. It also takes an hour and a half, but their boat is bigger, accommodating ninety passengers. It runs on Saturdays and Sundays, with the departure time depending on the season, ranging from 4:30pm in December to 7:00pm in June. Again you must book a place in advance, this time by calling 045-290-8377, or by using the online booking system. The cruises depart from the Aka-renga Pier in Yokohama. To get there, travel to Yokohama Station as described above, then take the Minatomirai Line to Bashamichi Station (five minutes, ¥180) . If both of these cruises are booked up, several other tours covering similar routes are listed on this website, but if you don’t read Japanese you’ll probably have to get someone to help you make sense of it.

Minoru Akita wrote in Japan News: “Orange dots of working lights shimmer in the darkness, illuminating white puffs from chimneys. This is the scene visible from a ship that takes a cruise around chemical plants and iron mills at night.” It was 7:00pm in July. “A sightseeing ship carrying about 20 passengers left Yokohama Port for the Factory Night View Jungle Cruise. There soon appeared iron plants, chemical factories and refineries on both sides of the ship. The intertwined duct work and numerous lights from working lamps reflected on the sea surface created a fantastic landscape. It was just like a futuristic city from a movie.

“Nightime factory cruises present views of industrial facilities that cannot be seen on shore. “I often hear people say ‘beautiful’ when they describe a night view. But people make various comments about night views at factories. Some say the duct work reminds them of blood vessels, while others say they thought of the vigor of high economic growth,” said Motoo Marumaru, a night-view critic. [Source: Minoru Akita, Japan News, August 4, 2016]

“Cruising tours like this have proliferated since about 2010 in areas housing industrial establishments near ports such as Kawasaki and Muroran in Hokkaido. The tours are usually planned and operated jointly by ship companies, local tourism associations and municipalities and are organised on weekends. Many cruises take about 1-1½ hours, and participation fees vary from 2,000 yen ($19) to 6,500 yen ($63) for adults. Yasuyuki Kameyama of the Kawasaki City Tourist Association said, “The cruising tour also follows the path of the industry’s efforts to overcome pollution through a series of technical developments.” A flare stack, for example, is a flame soaring from a chimney that appears when excess gas from petrochemical plants is burned to be detoxified.

Image Sources: 1) Edo-Tokyo Museum 2) 3) 4) Tokyo National Musuem 5) 16) Ray Kinnane 6) 7) Ghibli Museum 8) Tepco Musuem 9) National Science Musuem 10 Sumo Museum 11) 12) 13) 14) 15) Twin isles 17) Adachi Musuem

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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