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- Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum: Learn about history through hands-on experience and meeting people

Teachers Program: Connecting Schools with Cultural Facilities (second installment)

Event Report

No.004
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Curator, Yuji Tanaka, giving general explanation

At the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, participants in the Teachers’ Program spent half a day experiencing stone-grinding, fire-making and trying out architecture gymnastics, in addition to going around the museum. They were supposed to take part in the museum’s program for schools, which accepts up to 50 schools a year.


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2017.01.04

Hands-on Experience of Stone-grinding and Fire-making at an Old House

On a weekday at the end of August, still very hot, some teachers gather at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. The program started off with greetings from a curator, Yuji Tanaka. He asks, “How many of you have been here before?” Yet, no one says yes. He then asks, “How about the Edo-Tokyo Museum at Ryogoku?” This time lots of hand shot up. The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is a branch of the Edo-Tokyo Museum and is an open air museum preserving actual buildings. Tanaka moves on to explain about the museum.

“We have various restored buildings in different architectural styles from the Edo period to the early Showa era, including the Farmhouse of the Tenmyo Family, the public bathhouse “Kodakara-yu,” the bar “Kagiya” and the House of Kunio Mayekawa. In addition to these exhibits of restored buildings, there are special exhibitions showing the history of the buildings and events, such as letting visitors spend time feeling as if they were in downtown Edo in the evening or enjoying lit up buildings, as well as providing them with hands-on experience guided by traditional craftsmen.”

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Curator, Yuji Tanaka, giving general explanation

First, the participants took part in stone-grinding and fire-making at the Farmhouse of the Tenmyo Family, which has a thatched roof. The family is known to have served as village head in the Edo period. This activity is geared toward third graders and volunteers are in charge of instruction. One of them explains, “We are going to stone-grind rice to make rice powder. The stone-grinder consist of 2 parts so please make sure your students don’t get their fingers pinched. Decide who goes first by rock-scissors-paper.” One of the participants says, “It was heavier than I expected.” When they see rice ground into powder, they all exclaimed happily.

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The participants listen to explanation by volunteers. The volunteer group at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is called “Hijiri Kai.” There are currently 200 members and they provide tours and are engaged in awareness raising activities, such as showing how a fireplace works in a thatched roof house.
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Checking the powder by holding up the upper part of the grinder
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Grinding rice multiple times gives finer rice powder.

Next, they tried to make a fire. One of the volunteers started off asking the participants, “Why do we make a fire? Fire is indispensable in our life. We use it to boil water, to get warmth and light, and even to smoke out bugs living inside the thatched roof. The fire also served as a place where people gathered.” Charcoal called oki, when it gets red, is taken out of the irori fireplace and placed in a brazier in the next room. When they add more charcoal and blow air into it, it gets hot and red. Surrounding the warm brazier, the teachers start to look relaxed.

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The participants listen to the explanation as they gather around a firepan.
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Blowing air to get the fire going
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Being near fire encourages conversation.

Different ways to learn about buildings

After an hour of hands-on activities, the participants tried out architecture gymnastics. It started off with a loud call by Dr. Architecture Gymnastics. Architecture gymnastics is to express architecture by means of your body. We will report on this in detail in the next installment.

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Architecture Gymnastics

Being physically relaxed by architecture gymnastics, the participants had a tour of the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. Mr. Tanaka, the curator, took them around the large garden inside the museum, looking at buildings such as the public bathhouse “Kodakara-yu” and the House of Kunio Mayekawa, which they expressed in architecture gymnastics.

One of the teachers who was scheduled to visit the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum for a field trip said, “Many of my students have eyesight problems, so activities where they can touch and feel things such as stone-grinding and fire making are really good. Even when they go around the buildings, they can use their senses of smell, sound and touch rather than just sight. It’s going to be a good experience.”

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Mr. Tanaka, curator, gave the participants a tour.

Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is a facility where visitors can experience history and buildings with their whole body. Since it is an open air museum, the experience differs depending on the season, which is also fun. The teachers seem quite satisfied with the program. In the next installment, we will report on architecture gymnastics.

Text, Organization: Emi Sato