Go meet Tora-san, the shitamachi mascot

You can meet Tora-san, in a museum. Please note this article is only for when you have watched one (or better, several or all) of Tora-san’s movies. The Tora-san museum is completely dedicated to him, and the museum next door is about the director of this long running movie-series.

Tora-san is the main character in the movie series “It’s Tough Being a Man” (Otoko wa tsurai yo). He is a good-hearted traveling salesman with a big mouth. 48 movies were shot over 26 years (from 1969 until 1995), making it the longest ever movie series ever. In each installment, Tora-san is traveling around Japan, but always returns home at the end to his hometown, good old Shibamata. This increased significantly the amount of (Japanese) tourist that flocked to this beautiful-looking little town inside of Tokyo.

One of the sets used in the movies.

Tora-san has become the mascot of Shibamata. Tora-san merchandise is all over the place and you will be greeted by a Tora-san statue as soon as you get out of the station. Given how famous Tora-san is in Japan and the image of Shibamata as the ultimate shitamachi town, you can even go as far as to say that Tora-san is a shitamachi mascot.

The Tora-san museum might not be an abvious place to visit for a foreign tourist. The main drawback of course is that most foreign tourist have not watched any of the movies, which are not popular abroad. Fortunately, I was able to see many of them and even meet the series’ director Yamada Yōji in person.

It is foremost interesting to think about the significance of this museum. How many movie series and directors do you know that have their own museum? It all means that this movie series truly has a special place in the heart of many Japanese.

There is a large map showing all the places Tora-san visited in the movies.

The museum divided up into 16 areas that introduce the world of Tora-san. One of the highlights is the set of Kuruma-ya (the sweets shop that Tora-san frequented) that was used in the movies, and Tora-san’s suitcase (and hat). You will need 1 hour to get through the museum. There is no information displayed in English, but when you enter the museum you can get a brochure which has some information about each section in English.

Related to the Tora-san museum is the Yamada Yōji museum (the director of the Tora-san series) that opened in 2012, which introduces Yamada’s other works as well. He is still directing movies, even now at the age of 86 (2017). His latest works are “What A Wonderful Family!” (Kazoku wa tsurai yo in Japanese, a clear reference to the Tora-san movies, actually I would translate the movie title as “Family life is hard!”). As one movie can never be enough for this man, there was Kazoku wa tsurai yo 1 (2016) and the sequel Kazoku wa tsurai yo 2 (2017), the start of another long running series?

At the Yamada Yōji museum.

All in all, I felt that these museums were just put in Shibamata to give the tourists an alternative on a rainy day. If you watched the movies, it can be a nice trip down memory lane, nothing more, nothing less. If you are into old Japanese movies, definitely visit. Please note that everything is displayed in Japanese.

In practice

6-22-19 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo

Closest station:
Shibamata Station – 8 minutes walk (Keisei Line)

Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Closed every third Tuesday (if that is on a holiday, then the next day)
In December closed on the third Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Entrance fee: JPY 500
(students: JPY 300, seniors: JPY 400)
You can buy a combination ticket with Yamamoto-tei for JPY 50 extra.

Web: (Japanese only, but you can select auto-translation from the globe icon on top)

Name in Japanese: 寅さん博物館