The Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses: A Link to the Past-ure

When one mentions Osaka, Japan’s third largest city, images of Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, and Universal Studios immediately come to mind. But they aren’t even a handful of what this city has to offer.

Last June, my fiancée and I had the opportunity to visit one of Osaka’s quiet surprises—the Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses.

Nestled in the Hattori Ryokuchi Park in Toyonaka, this outdoor museum is accessible via a lengthy walk from the Ryokuchi-Koen station of the Kita-Osaka Kyuko Railway line. It is actually connected to the Midosuji Line, but you will need to pay an extra 90 yen as this isn’t covered by the Osaka Amazing Pass.


Being advocates of the immersive-type of museum, we quickly took a liking to the place as it not only reminded us of the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living from our previous trip, but it also went the extra mile with these three words: “moved and rebuilt.”

The last of its kind

Yes, we were looking at 12 actual Edo period farmhouses seemingly plucked from the mists of time all across Japan and restored for display.

This farmhouse from Setsu-Nose, Osaka, is characteristic of the Irimoya-Zukuri style
with a “hip and gable” roof to resist wind and snow. The interior is divided into a wooden half
for sleeping and an earthen half for cooking.
A farmhouse from Hida-Shirakawa in the Gifu province is practically synonymous with the term “Gassho-Zukuri,” or hands held in prayer, due to its distinctive roof.
This is one of the oldest houses on display and it used to fit a family of 20.
This farmhouse from Akiyama, Nagano, looks bundled up because it was originally located in a remote village high up in the mountains and knee-deep in snow.

Each house possesses a certain trademark influenced by the conditions and customs of the area.

In Shirakawa-go farmhouses, the thatching is such that it can repel rain,
keep the interior ventilated, and withstand heavy snowfall.

The interiors are no less striking: From the simple yet efficient design to the “old log cabin” aroma to the creaks and groans of the wooden panels, they are a feast for the senses.

This partitioned area served as the bedroom for the elderly couple.
In certain farmhouses, stables were part of the main dwelling. The L-configuration made it possible
for farmers to watch over their livestock from their quarters.
This staircase leads to a spacious attic which was used for raising silkworms.

Despite being museum pieces, the houses remain functional. The clay ovens are still being used to cook rice while the irori (hearth) continues to be a place for the caretakers and guests to eat.

A caretaker stoking the fire
A lady using the workroom to weave sandals

Of course, rural villages like these were not without leisure. Certain villages had a Kabuki theater that served the dual purpose of entertaining and offering. The performances were used, for example, to give thanks to the farmers’ patron deity prior to rice planting in spring.

The museum experience won’t be complete without the educational materials. Unfortunately, most of these are in Japanese.

The tools, while archaic, may still be of use…
…but staying ensconced in glass would serve them better.
Farming implements too big to be housed in glass

It’s a good thing a volunteer guide approached us as we were looking through Farmhouse 11. The guides are usually seen in the bigger houses (2, 7, 11), and they are very accomodating.

Despite his limited English (and my elementary-level Nihongo comprehension), he was able to explain the workings of a typical minka down to the living arrangements.

Farmhouses aren’t the only thing this museum has to offer. Down the winding path, painters and photographers try to capture the idyllic scenery. Memorial stones sit silently on a tranquil spot. Blue, pink, and purple hydrangeas dot the myriad bushes.

There’s this windmill from Sakai that was used to pump water
during the Taisho period…
… and this bamboo grove.
You can collect these along the way

As with those three words, we left the place with a brief glimpse of how life was back then, a lingering notion of how the farmers made do with what they had, and a lasting impression of the Japanese people’s profound respect for their past.

The entrance fee is 500 yen per person. Museum hours are from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. They are closed on Mondays.

photos by: Robert De Villa

3 thoughts on “The Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses: A Link to the Past-ure

    1. Thanks!!! It’s great to hear from a fellow traveler. I visited your site and upon reading your most recent post, was surprised to find out there was more to Antipolo than its famous waterfall. Guess you really can discover something new each day!

      Liked by 1 person

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