Former school repurposed as wooden toy museum in Nagano

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Children role-play making sushi.

KISO, Nagano — A wood-built elementary school has reopened as a wooden toy museum 25 years after its closure in Kiso, Nagano Prefecture.

Kiso Toy Museum, which opened on Nov. 19, has about 500 toys that visitors can play with. The museum uses locally produced timber, such as Kiso cypress.

The first floor of the Omocha no Yakata (house of toys) zone, formally the school’s gymnasium, now incorporates a play area called Kodomo Kisoji, which was inspired by the 11 post towns on the Kisoji section of the Nakasendo road that runs through the local area. The second floor has a section where visitors can “harvest” wooden fruits and vegetables, and role-play in sushi, pizza and soba restaurants. There are about 100 volunteer ‘toy curators’ registered with the museum to explain each section to visitors.

The Deai no Yakata (house of encounters) building houses the reception area and a coffee shop, and the Taiken no Yakata (house of experience) zone offers the chance to cook traditional local food and practice woodworking.

The museum is operated by Furusato Koryu Kiso, a local nonprofit organization designated by the town to manage the facility, under the general supervision of the Tokyo Toy Museum in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

“I hope that this facility will serve a wide range of fields, including child-rearing, education and the environment as it allows visitors to interact with wood and deepen their understanding of forest culture,” said Kiso Mayor Kunio Hara at the opening ceremony of the museum.

The museum’s opening saw crowds of children with their parents. “It’s good to have an environment where children can play with wood. I appreciate that there are many staff members to keep an eye on them,” said a 30-year-old mother of three young children who lives in the town. “ I’d like to visit the facility with my family again on weekends.”

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Wednesdays.

Admission: ¥800 for junior high school students and older, ¥600 for children aged from 1 to elementary school age. Kiso residents receive a ¥300 discount per person. Children who are elementary school age and under must be accompanied by an adult.