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.”
Yes, we were looking at 12 actual Edo period farmhouses seemingly plucked from the mists of time all across Japan and restored for display.
Each house possesses a certain trademark influenced by the conditions and customs of the area.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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