Encountering the Edo Period and Hobnobbing with Owls


This week our family headed to Tokyo for the day to renew the kids’ passports and spend some fun family time.  After an uneventful experience at the embassy and a scrumptious lunch of Indian curry, we trekked over to the Edo-Tokyo Museum to dive into learning about the Japanese Edo and Meiji periods.  
The Edo period lasted from 1603 to 1868 and was the time when samurai were plentiful and Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate.  During this time, Japan was closed off to the rest of the world and many of the cultural traditions that we think of as distinctly Japanese came into existence.

The Meiji Period lasted from 1868, when the reign of the Tokugawa family ended and Emperor Meiji took power, to 1912 when Emperor Taisho became the new leader.  This was a period of modernization and westernization for Japan.

The fifth floor of the Edo-Tokyo museum where the permanent exhibits are located is divided into two halves – one with displays about the Edo Period (during which the capital city was called Edo) and and the other with information and interactive zones that teach about the Meiji Era (when Edo became known as Tokyo).

When we entered the museum, we were greeted by a volunteer tour guide who sweetly and skillfully guided us throughout many of the displays, giving us tons of background information and access to a behind the scenes area where we could try out instruments that were used for making sound effects for kabuki performances.  She gave us the option for having our tour in English or Japanese and we decided to go with the Japanese version for listening and speaking practice.  

Highlights for us were the kabuki instruments, a life-size model of the old wooden Nihonbashi bridge, a Meiji Era house we could enter and explore, and a display of samurai swords and armor.  

We are big fans if Indian curry and naan bread!

It’s probably a good thing this isn’t our usual family car!



Learning from our tour guide about kabuki theater and how they made different sound effects during the Edo Period.


This is what the front of the kabuki theater looked like.


Photo op on a Meiji Era bicycle.

We could have spent more time at this fascinating spot, but left after a couple hours so we could zip over to our other touristy activity for the day — an owl cafe!

Tokyo is a city full of themed cafes and new styles are always being added.  Animal cafes are quite popular right now, with different ones offering customers the chance to relax while communing with dogs, cats, birds, and even monkeys or owls.  

After paying an entrance fee, we were provided with a soft drink of our choice and given an hour to hang with the 60 different owls who reside at the cafe.  The decor of Owl Forest Cafe was very eclectic and not really my favorite, but the staff were kind and the many types of owls were cute and allowed us to gently pet them on their backs and heads.  I don’t think we would go back to that particular cafe, but it was a fun family experience, especially for our animal-loving kids.


We’d had a unique and fun-filled day in our favorite big city, but we still weren’t finished with our family adventure.  The final stop was dinner in the home our dear friends who live in Saitama, about an hour away from where we were.

Our sweet friend Echan welcomed us into her lovely apartment and we had a super fun time eating, laughing, and fellowshipping with her family and another close friend, Saki-Chan.  



As we drove home that night we all agreed that the necessity of renewing our passports had provided us with a chance to build some great family memories!  

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Studying the Middle Ages

This year we are studying world history in our homeschooling curriculum.  Of the different time periods we’ve studied so far, the boys have been quite interested in the Middle Ages.  They love learning about castles, knights, and what life was like in those days.  As part of our studies, we’ve been reading a book called “Time Traveler” published by Usborne Books.  In the book, a boy from modern times puts on a special time traveling helmet and then uses it to travel back in time to observe ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, the Vikings, and the Middle Ages.  Each page is filled with interesting information and tons of detailed, colorful pictures, so the boys LOVE reading this book together.  They were also on the edge of their seats as we read another book about the adventures of Robin Hood.  Along with reading about the time period together, we used the internet to research the family crests for two different families.  Since our research showed several different possible crests for each family, the boys each chose one they were excited about and then made their own shield using the real crest as a model.   They enjoyed that craft so much that they went on to make helmets out of cardboard for themselves (which are still in progress) and then even made swords, helmets, and shields for their stuffed animals! 🙂  Oh, and of course they also had to get in some sword fighting practice in with each other too!