Hidden away in Kabukichō (which is not as dodgy as its reputation would have you believe), the Shinjuku Samurai Museum is a small, intimate and awesome place to take a crash course in Japan’s 700-year-long samurai tradition.

The museum offers over 70 exhibits covering the Muromachi, Edo, Kamakura and Sengoku eras, ranging from traditional knives and swords to various styles of armor and the matchlock guns that changed the face of war. It’s not aimed specifically at full-scale long-term samurai-culture geeks, but beginners and the casual visitors will get a detailed look at what is actually a fairly complicated aspect of Japanese culture.

The museum opened at the end of 2015 with a sexy Sengoku-style interior, and being fairly small, it’s a lot more personal and less crowded than some of the city’s bigger museums. This is a great way to get your Edo fix if you’re not going to the Edo Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku. The admission fee may look a little steep, but be assured it’s worth it. Also, if you miss a sword demonstration, hang onto your ticket and come back to catch it the next day. It’s busiest in the afternoons, but it’s open from 8:30 am to 9 pm, so you can go whenever it suits your schedule.

The exhibits come with comprehensive descriptions in English, Korean and Chinese, and the knowledgeable staff are fluent in English. You need about an hour to do justice to the museum and to get the most of out of it. Top tip: take a guided tour, where a staff member will talk you through the exhibits.

There are also free dueling demonstrations several times a day, a photo corner where you can see whether you can pull off a suit of armor, and a gift shop carrying everything from pens and t-shirts to swords (real and replica: ask the staff to help you) and full-scale sets of armor. If you have more time and want to learn samurai skills, the museum offers calligraphy lessons and sword courses twice a week, for a fee of about ¥5,000.

Access: JR Shinjuku Station East Exit (8-minute walk) or Seibu-Shinjuku Station (4-minute walk)
Opening hours: 08:30 – 21:00
Languages supported: Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean
English-speaking staff: Yes
Guided tours available: Yes
Admissions fees: ¥1,900 (adults), ¥800 (children under 12), free for children under three.
Tickets available online: Yes, and you can get them at a discount on Tiqets.
Demonstrations and workshops: Yes, including sword performances, photo sessions, lectures and calligraphy lessons. For schedules and prices, check the museum’s website.

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