Remember when you were five years old and your parents took you to all those “discovery” places and children museums where you could touch everything? Well, welcome to the Osaka version, and adults are 100% welcome! "Osaka" becomes Edo period "Naniwa" again, an interactive, life-size dollhouse that you’re free to explore! The museum is spread over the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Osaka Urban Redevelopment and Housing Bureau Building, with direct access from the station. Enter on the 8th floor to pay, then ascend the looong escalator to the 10th floor. From there, see the city from above: close-slanting tile roofs huddle together over packed dirt streets and alleys. Now step back down to the 9th floor.
Six houses and an example of the first apartments crowd together on two blocks under a white-domed roof. Take a walk down Main Street; to your right is the town bath house, where you can go to watch an original movie that takes place in the “real” places around the neighborhood (or pretend that you’re taking a bath – your choice). Further on is the kimono shop, the paper shop, and the apothecary – feel free to go in! The houses are fully furnished; it’s like walking into a rich stranger's house when they’ve just stepped out for a moment (which you know you always want to do) and being able to play with all their stuff.
Step off the street into the alley – watch out for the cute little dogs – and pay your respects at the small shrine. Then head down the narrow street behind the bigger houses, sidestep the drying fabric and straight into any apartment house you’d like. Pull out the futons, or sojourn on the narrow back ledge overlooking a few sparse weeds in your tiny, tiny backyard. The best part about this experience, at least for me, is that I could really pretend to live there, to own whichever house I felt like owning. Don’t just glance and go – sit for a second and imagine just what it was like to live in these places. Probably by now you’re hearing voices – conversations, footsteps and the voices of animals. Listen to townspeople barter, dogs bark and horses clop down the street as you poke around. Don’t be surprised if invisible people call out right next to you!
Then suddenly the sky darkens and thunder rolls through the room; real enough to have made me jump under the nearest roof, a rainstorm began (don’t worry, you won’t get wet) as day began to fade. Slowly, the lanterns all over town start to glow softly, and as the rain ends, a flock of geese fly over the full moon above you. Find a place to spend the night, or walk through the darkened town until morning, when the rooster crows and the sun rises back up. The whole day takes about forty-five minutes. As you leave, sit in at the schoolhouse and read through some authentic Japanese textbooks
Back to the museum feeling again on the 8th floor, here you get to look at some awesome miniatures that show Osaka's developmental years before, during and after the war, as well as listening to a young girl's personal experience through moving mini stages. Special exhibits pertaining to the represented time periods are held regularly in the display hall, such as old fashioned appliances or advertisements. The best part is, if you can go on a weekday, you’ll virtually have the place to yourself. So go ahead and be five again, and play around in your own personal piece of Osaka!