By Shunichi Miyamato / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKAWASAKI — The Tokaido Kawasaki Shuku Koryukan museum is a good place to stop for a rest along the old Tokaido main road in Kawasaki.
The four-story building with a green noren shop curtain hanging at the entrance memorializes Kawasaki Shuku Station, one of the 53 stations of the Tokaido main road linking Kyoto with Edo (now Tokyo). The route was a bustling transportation artery in the Edo period (1603-1867).
The Kawasaki city government established the museum as a hub for people to learn about the historical and cultural aspects of Kawasaki Shuku Station. It opened in October 2013 and will mark its fifth anniversary this year.
There is an area modeled after a room of Mannen-ya, a Kawasaki Shuku rest house, on the first floor of the museum.
Mannen-ya was famous in its day for narachameshi boiled rice with various ingredients, attracting many customers as one of the most popular rest houses in the suburbs of Edo.
It is highly possible that Kusaka Genzui, a pivotal player among supporters of a doctrine of expelling foreigners in the Choshu domain, had sake here with Sakamoto Ryoma, a key figure in the historical events leading to the Meiji Restoration.
A Nov. 12, 1862, note in a diary kept by Kusaka reads, “Had a cup of sake with Ryoma at Mannen-ya.”
It’s good to imagine the history of such events while sitting on the tatami mats of the re-created Mannen-ya room.
On the second floor of the museum, you will find a model of Kawasaki Shuku and descriptive panels explaining Kawasaki Station as well as the 53 stations of the Tokaido road.
The picture map of the about 1.4-kilometer-long Kawasaki Shuku street is drawn on the floor. Visitors can feel like they are actually exploring the street in the period.
A spot for shooting souvenir photos, where visitors can wear Edo-period costumes, is especially popular among family groups and foreign visitors.
The costumes and wigs include those of townspeople, travelers, feudal lords, princesses and ninja. For the background of a photo, visitors can choose from four patterns of hanging displays such as a station street and a ferry crossing of the Tamagawa river at the Rokugo bank.
Visitors can even enjoy looking at the stairs, as each step is decorated with images from the ukiyo-e series “53 Stations of the Tokaido.”
“I want the museum to be a place that fulfills the intellectual curiosity of people who stop by while walking the old Tokaido road,” said the museum’s director, Shigeo Aoki, 77.
A sizeable number of visitors are on walking tours organized by travel agencies, he said.
Aoki said there was once a visitor dressed in Edo-period garb, including a kasa wicker hat, who had walked all the way from Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area. But the person failed to say “gomen nasutte” (hello) when passing through the noren curtain at the entrance, which would have been a breach of etiquette in those olden days.
■ Tokaido Kawasaki Shuku Koryukan
Special exhibitions about the history of Kawasaki and people related to the city are held on the third floor. The museum is about a 10-minute walk from JR Kawasaki Station, and a six-minute walk from Keikyu Kawasaki Station.
Address: 1-8-4 Honcho, Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Mondays. When Monday is a holiday, it is closed the following day.)