Few cities have been shaped more than Tokyo by the ravages of fire, so the Tokyo Fire Museum offers an important and fascinating insight into this destructive force and the efforts to fight it.

The Fire Museum is spread over 6 floors in the same building as the Yotsuya Fire Station, directly above Yotsuya 3-Chome Station. There is also a library on the 7th floor and a lounge on the 10th floor.

The route that visitors are expected to follow starts on the 6th floor and works its way down to the basement—skipping the 2nd floor which houses the Yotsuya Fire station.

Model of a typical Edo era neighborhood
Model of a typical, densely populated Edo era neighborhood | Photo by Gregory Lane

The 6th floor has an audiovisual area and lots of fire truck models. Unless you or a child that you bring with you is an enthusiastic collector of models, it can probably be skipped. The interesting part of the museum happens on the next floors down.

Fire figher's clothing including a white leather half coat
Fire figher’s clothing including a white leather half coat | Photo by Gregory Lane

The 5th and 4th floors cover the history and the evolution of fire fighting in Tokyo. Edo, as Tokyo was known before the 19th century Meiji Restoration, suffered devastating fires that killed thousands on a regular basis. Crews of firefighting samurai would rapidly destroy houses to try to prevent the fire from spreading.

Fire fighter crew emblems
Fire figher’s clothing including a white leather half coat | Photo by Gregory Lane

The museum displays some of the specialised uniforms, the crew banners, and the fearsome tools used by the crews to tear apart buildings. This tradition is still commemorated in the annual Edo Firemen’s Annual Memorial event at Yutenji.

Eventually, Japan began to adopt some of the firefighting techniques and equipment fron the west, so pumps, hoses and carts start to make an appearance.

Horse drawn fire wagon
Horse drawn fire wagon | Photo by Gregory Lane

The outdoor terrace on the 5th floor has one of the museum’s three decommisioned helicopters on display. If COVIS-19 countermeasures aren’t in place, kids (or you) can play in the cockpit and take some photos.

Fire fighting helicopter
Fire fighting helicopter | Photo by Gregory Lane

The 3rd floor of the museum displays modern equipment and has a lot of the interactive displays for the kids.

Lastly, the basement houses the many different generations of fire trucks, as well as another helicopter and an ambulance—the fire service in Japan also operate ambulances.

Old fire trucks
Old fire trucks | Photo by Gregory Lane

The museum is currently implementing various precautions against spread of COVID-19, so sadly, many of the exhibits are look-but-don’t-touch. Additionally, at the entrance there is a temperature check, compulsory hand sanitizing and contact data collection. The closing time is also one hour earlier than usual to allow for cleaning.

Tokyo Fire Museum
Tokyo Fire Museum | Photo by Gregory Lane

The museum can be accessed directly from Yotsuya 3-Chome Station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line.