Kanji Museum in Gion is a place where you can learn about the history of Chinese characters through interactive games
The Kanji Museum opened in June 2016 in front of Yasaka Shrine in Gion, and it’s the first kanji, or Chinese character museum in Japan. When you think of museums you may think of exhibitions and historic material on display, but what is special about the Kanji Museum is that you can learn about Chinese characters by seeing and touching them.
The museum has two floors; the first one having a movie theater and graphic displays about the birth, history, and evolution of Chinese characters, and you can freely walk around this floor and look at the historic materials. On the second floor you can learn about kanji through games and quizzes. Besides these they also have a library where you can study kanji, and you can try a smartphone with the Kanji Kentei, or the Japan Kanji Aptitude Test, app on it and see how many kanji you can recognize, plus they also have kanji workshops for families. This Kanji Museum is a place where children, and of course adults too, will be absorbed into the world of Chinese characters.
A kanji tower with 50,000 Chinese characters
When you see this tower with 50,000 kanji characters, it almost makes you shout “Truly, this is the Kanji Museum!” in admiration. There is an elevator inside this tower, and on the walls you can see approximately 50,000 Chinese characters. The ones bigger than the rest in blue are the kanji Japanese children learn in elementary school and the ones in orange are the “joyo kanji”, a list of 2,136 kanji by the Japanese Ministry of Education. The smaller Chinese characters are rare kanji that are not used regularly. You can spend a long time here looking for the characters you like or the characters in your name.
First floor exhibition corner
In the first floor exhibition they tell about the origin and history of Chinese characters all the way to present time through photographs andtext. You can learn about the characters and writing tools ancient people actually used, and you can even pick them up and see them up close.
Interact with kanji on the second floor
The second floor is mainly about interactive experiences, and you can touch and feel Chinese characters through all kinds of games and interactive panels. They have multiplayer touch panel games, a corner where you can make characters with your body, and places where you can see the characters for animals, plants, and familiar things like soap bars. I recommend you start from the place that interests you the most.
Learn about kanji with the “experience sheet” worksheet
When you buy the entrance ticket to the museum, you get handed an “experience sheet,” a worksheet pamphlet. There are places on the first floor where you can use this experience sheet. They have a corner where you can use stamps to stamp your name in ancient Chinese characters on the sheet, and another where you can stamp the names of countries in Chinese characters to the sheet (normally country names are written using the katakana alphabet in Japan), and all of these experiences can be done just by stamping the sheet.