Thursday, 1 October 2015

Caroline vs. Meiji Mura


On our way through Central Honshū, my family stopped at Museum Meiji Mura, an open-air museum featuring Meiji-era buildings about an hour north of Nagoya.  It's similar in concept to Upper Canada Village, which my brother and I grew up visiting, and it had an original Frank Lloyd Wright façade, which was a huge draw for my mother and me as we are the heritage nerds in the family.

The Meiji era had a really distinctive architectural style, as new Western ideas were mixed with traditional Japanese techniques.  Unfortunately few buildings remain in Japan due to earthquakes, bombings, and rapid urban development, but the museum has preserved over 60 buildings by dismantling and transporting them to this rural location.  It is an enormous place with winding paths, long staircases, and even a trolley and functioning steam locomotive!  We only had a few hours, plus it was a sweltering day, so we skipped about a third of the park, but one could easily spend an entire day here.

We stopped in at a functioning post office to send some postcards, admired a stained glass Christmas tree in a cathedral from Kyoto, and eventually stopped in at the Frank Lloyd Wright building for something to drink and some relief from the heat.  FLW designed a new building for Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in 1922, and when the building was demolished in the late 1960s for a larger hotel building the courtyard and lobby area were moved to Meiji Mura.  It's a really beautiful and interesting building, and it is fantastic that someone had the foresight to preserve it.  There is a small shop inside selling Meiji Mura souvenirs, as well as some FLW swag like scarves and jewellery inspired by his designs.  Up a couple flights of stairs is a small café with drinks and snacks; I had a coffee float (exactly what you think: vanilla ice cream in coffee) for the first time ever, and now I wish they were on every menu.

Meiji Mura was a fabulous way to see what urban Japan might have looked like during one of the most pivotal periods of its history, especially since Japan has a much different concept of architectural heritage preservation than Europe or North America, and has lost many buildings to earthquakes and war.  There is enough English signage throughout the museum to give you a thorough history of the buildings, and this is a great under-the-radar stop for history and architecture nerds like me.

xx, C.

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