One of the things I like about this museum is the spirit it conveys of Tokyo's shitamachi (old downtown), both in its folksy, down-to-earth presentation and in the friendliness of the people who work here, including volunteers eager to give free tours. Shitamachi is where commoners used to live, mainly in the north part of Tokyo around Ueno and Asakusa. But after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the air raids of World War II, precious little remains. Much of what you see here was donated by people living in the area. The ground floor contains a reconstructed shitamachi street as it might have looked around 1920, with a life-size merchant's house, a candy shop, and a small tenement shared by two families. These row tenements were long and narrow, with thin wooden walls separating one from the next and alleyways serving as communal living rooms. On the second floor are displays of cooking utensils, tools, toys, and games, most of which you can pick up and try out yourself, as well as a reconstruction of what was once the entrance to a public bath. Another display describes the 1923 earthquake, which hit at lunchtime when housewives were busy cooking over fires and which destroyed nearly half of Tokyo and killed more than 105,000 people (after the earthquake, up to 500,000 people sought refuge in Ueno Park alone). Since the museum is small, you can tour it in about 20 minutes, but I suggest the free tour as well, when volunteers can explain things you might not notice on your own, like the old-fashioned fly-catcher.