Family Fun: Kyushu National Museum (Dazaifu)

The network of national museums in Japan is quite impressive. Of the four branches, three are located on the main island of Honshu – in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. It wasn’t until recently that a fourth branch opened in the leafy town of Dazaifu, a short drive or train ride from Fukuoka.

The museum exhibits focus on both Japanese and neighboring Asian cultures, showcasing beautiful artifacts like flame vases and porcelain while also highlighting the historical ties among the various nations.

So … why is this a Family Fun post?

The children's atelier "Ajippa"
The children’s atelier “Ajippa”

Because as good as the museum exhibit is, I had more fun in the children’s atelier, “Ajippa”. This hands-on, shoes-off learning center was enough to occupy my toddler for over an hour, and older kids would be busy even longer. One half of the room is divided into learning station, with each station focusing on a different Asian country (or a country, like Portugal, that had strong ties with the region). You could put on Mongolian boots and clothes and attempt to ride a wooden horse; play Chinese instruments (including a huge gong!) and learn to play Chinese checkers; wear Dutch clogs; or try your hand at Korean games. For my toddler, a long dragon tunnel provided tons of fascination, but some of the older kids around us had more fun at the craft table or figuring out the magnetic shape puzzles.

Two learning stations in Ajippa
Two learning stations in Ajippa

At the back of Ajippa, there is a rotating display that focuses on Asian homes. The current exhibit deals with Korean patchwork quilts and a sign indicated that workshops were available.

There are plenty of staff on hand to assist – it might feel as if they are hovering at times, but don’t worry (too much) about what your kid is doing. Everything here really is hands-on (if not, it will either be up high or clearly marked) – and even when my daughter started bouncing on the tail of the wooden horse, no admonishment was issued.

The dragon tunnel - a huge hit with the little ones!
The dragon tunnel – a huge hit with the little ones!

The best thing about Ajippa is that it’s free. Yup, free. The atelier sits in the massive main hall of the museum and tickets are only needed to see the exhibits on the 3rd and 4th floors. So if you’re in Dazaifu for some sightseeing and the kids just need a bit of a break from the endless parade of shrines and temples, pop in to the Kyushu National Museum and let them explore the fascinating cultures of Asia.

For more information on the Kyushu National Museum, check out their excellent English website.

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