Special Report

Kawasaki City Nihon Minka-en
Enjoy a quiet stroll through a collection of old style traditional village houses!

A rainbow bridge connecting the past to the future
Escape the busy city for a while and let the olden days of Japan enrich your life. Located in Kawasaki's Ikuta Ryokuchi Park, the "oasis for the heart" of Nihon Minka-en might just bring traditional Japanese scenery alive for you (photo 1).
Nihon Minka-en has 25 structures on display, including traditional village houses typical of east Japan as well as a water mill house, boatman house, stilted storage house (takakura), and farm village kabuki stage (of those 25 structures, 18 are designated as important cultural properties by the national and prefectural government). Also, visitors can learn the basics about these traditional village houses in the Nihon Minka-en main display building.
To let you get a real feel for how people lived in these old traditional village houses, the pathway features stone objects like guardian Dosojin statues, koshinto monuments, horse headed Kannon statues, and signposts and the traditional village house interiors feature daily living tools like farming tools, woven items, straw ware, and bamboo ware on display. Wow, this area really recreates a historically accurate atmosphere (photo 2). Nihon Minka-en also holds an array of events like classes about traditional village houses and folk tools, performances of traditional folk entertainment, and tea parties.
Perhaps the best part of Nihon Minka-en is the "fireside gatherings." Gather around the the flame of a hearth inside an old style traditional village house and listen as a volunteer staff member entertains with immensely charming stories about old style traditional village houses (photo 3). These stories have a wonderfully strange way of enriching your heart. It is an incredible experience!

A collection of traditional buildings only 20 minutes from downtown
The first floor of the main building is a display area and the second floor houses the office and research room. The display area has basic information all about old style traditional village houses. There you can see displays centered around the themes of Japanese traditional village houses, traditional village house construction, traditional village house sites and configurations, fire and trees pertaining to traditional village houses, and day and night at a traditional village house.
Today, traditional style traditional village houses are disappearing in Japan, and preserving them is an urgent task. For example, think about the "Shirakawa-go" area, which is a World Heritage Site. Shirakawa-go incorporates a beautiful city design that keeps the regional climate, history, and folk culture alive through the presence of gassho style thatched roof house traditional village houses. And of course, Nihon Minka-en has a gassho style traditional village house from the Gokayama area in the Etchu region (photo 4). You can take a 20 minute train from the downtown area to see this World Heritage Site and save yourself the trip all the way to the local region --- making a visit to Nihon Minka-en an absolute must. In addition to all of that, a "post town," Shinetsu region village, Kanto region village, Kanagawa region village, and Tohoku region village are on display with an amazing array of resources. What's more, it's all located in an environment that lets you enjoy Japanese tradition in an accessible setting. It's definitely worth seeing!
Visiting Nihon Minka-en really drives home just how in depth the architecture of traditional village houses is. If you take your time walking around the site, there are enough amazing tidbits to keep you busy for at least half of a day, and at the same time there are facilities designed to let you learn all sorts of interesting things. It is great fun to head out for a hike with visits to the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art and the Kawasaki Municipal Science Museum (planetarium), which are located together with Nihon Minka-en in the same Ikuta Ryokuchi Park (photo 5). You are bound to discover all sorts of new things.

Photo 1
Nihon Minka-en entrance

Photo 2
Proceeding along the walkway, the first of the old style traditional village houses comes into view.

Photo 3
A fireside gathering scene. What a wonderful ambiance. The listener is impressed by the importance of the volunteer staff member's stories.

Photo 4
This is the Emukai-ke house, which is a nationally designated cultural property.

Photo 5
The impressively large Ikuta Ryokuchi Park.