All those tiny people - where are they all going? What are their lives like? Here are some of the best places to ponder these important questions.
8. Factory life at Umami Science Square (Kawasaki)Showing off a factory assembly line for the production of Ajinomoto MSG, this industrial diorama incorporates an impressive level of detail in the conveyor belts, pipes and other factory equipment. It's housed in the small Ajinomoto museum in front of their sprawling factory complex in Kawasaki.
7. Petty crime scenes at Police Museum (Kyobashi)This generic neighborhood layout isn't all that pretty, but it's probably the most interactive - and drama-filled - diorama we've seen in town. Press any of several buttons to expose the crime hotspots in this quiet-looking Tokyo neighborhood - everything from attempted purse-snatching to illegal parking.
6. Around the watering hole at Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum (Ochanomizu)Occupying a corner of a very specialized museum devoted to Tokyo's water supply system, this small-scale diorama falls into the "slice-of-life" category, capturing the everyday chore of gathering water at an urban neighborhood well.
5. How Shinjuku got its start at Shinjuku Historical Museum (Akebonobashi)The central Shinjuku entertainment district looked very different during the Edo period, but it was already getting pretty busy. This large-size diorama is one of the highlights of the cozy but charming Shinjuku Historical Museum.
4. An old Akihabara transportation hub at Maach Ecute (Akihabara)Centered on the long-defunct Manseibashi train station (now converted to a design-focused shopping mall) this station-area diorama really gives a feel for the old neighborhood, with its streetcar lines, low-rise commercial buildings and busy sidewalks and plazas.
3. Traditional sake-making at Food and Agriculture Museum (Setagaya-ku)Often a diorama is more information-rich than an illustration or photograph, and the several dioramas depicting traditional sake-making techniques here are good examples. The Tokyo University of Agriculture is the alma mater of many of Japan's foremost sake makers, and a substantial portion of their museum is devoted to sakemaking and sake culture.
2. Architectural models at Archi-Depot (Tennozu Isle)It's easy to lose yourself in the tiny worlds of Archi-Depot, a fantastic museum devoted entirely to architectural models. The model for Kengo Kuma's Asakusa Cultural Center is one of the larger-scale projects, encompassing the streets and sidewalks between the building and Sensoji Temple's main Kaminarimon gate. There's also a large-scale diorama of the nearby Tennozu Isle canal area housed in the museum's gift shop.
1. Old-Edo shopping at Edo-Tokyo Museum (Ryogoku)This excellent historical museum features several large-scale dioramas illustrating life in the old town. The Edo-era department store, peopled with numerous shoppers and staff, is our favorite.