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Modern Kids are Still Captivated with the Nostalgic Toys Once Played With by the Children of Old Edo

The spirit of ingenuity that gave rise to outstanding inventors – these toys are a treasure trove of ancestral knowledge.

The Naramachi Karakuri Toy Museum is comprised of a main house built in the 23rd year of the Meiji period (1890), the inner garden still unchanged from that period, and a workshop building added in 2012. The main building, a refurbished “Machiya”, or town house, built 120 years ago, is filled with permanent exhibits of reproductions of traditional Japanese mechanical toys, or “karakuri” toys, dating from the Edo period, and usually filled with numerous tourists and excited children. The adults of the Edo period made skillful use of natural materials, such as bamboo and Japanese paper, to create this toys with which they played unselfconsciously. When one realizes that a young man who became engrossed in the clockwork mechanisms of karakuri toys towards the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate eventually went on to successfully develop alarm clocks and steam engines, and founded the company we know as Toshiba today, it’s impossible to argue that they are “just toys”.

They captivate everyone regardless of age or nationality. The mysterious appeal of mechanical toys!

The easy to grasp mechanisms and workings of these antique toys tickle the curiosity of even today’s children in the age of computer and TV games. Next to the Japanese visitors, including families extending over three generations, there are also tourists from overseas who play with these toys for hours next to the Japanese families. One will understand the power of toys to overcome barriers by observing the staff explain them with hand and body gestures. According to Makiko Yasuda, Director of the museum who multi-tasks as she reproduces, creates, and repairs the toys, “Everyone who comes here leaves with a smile on their face.” Explaining the fascination of the toys, she adds, “I am fascinated by the wisdom of our ancestors as I work to reproduce these toys from historic records. The actual antique toys rarely survive today. This is one of the few places where you can really experience history. Students will likely become captive to the fascination after even a single visit.”

A record 200,000 visitors since the opening in April 2012!

Many toys were gifted by the lab of Michitaka Kamada, honorary professor at Nara University who worked on research to reproduce the karakuri toys for many years. About 30 items are on permanent display, available for visitors to pick up and play with, and rotated every two months from a collection of approximately 200 items.


Naramachi Karakuri (Mechanical) Toy Museum
9:00-17:00 (Closed: Wednesday and Dec 29th to Jan 3rd)
7 Inyo-cho, Nara-shi, Nara Pref
Free of charge

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