We stumbled upon the new Tobacco and Salt Museum in Sumida Ward by accident while walking from Kinshicho to Tokyo Skytree, and I’m glad we did because I’d now put it down as one of our favourite museums in Tokyo.
We completely avoided the floor about tobacco but just the salt floor was well worth 100 yen (for an adult, 50 yen for kids, free for under 7s). It’s much more interactive than the old museum in Shibuya was, and in fact more interactive than the science museums in Tokyo, including great use of technology, lots of exhibits that you can touch, and some genuinely impressive exhibits such as a Madonna carved entirely from salt. All the exhibits have reasonable English translations (though the videos only have subtitles, not English audio). The souvenir shop also has helpful staff and some interesting and reasonably-priced souvenirs such as old-fashioned matchboxes and genuine rocksalt. And after you finish there you are just minutes from Tokyo Skytree or you can walk for about 20 minutes along the nice long park it is in all the way to Kinshicho for more convenient transport connections or slightly longer to Ryogoku for the Edo Tokyo Museum and sumo stadium.
About the only negative thing I can say about the museum is that someone needed to edit out some of the geekier information about salt factories which frankly only a salt trainspotter could possibly find interesting, but there was little enough of that not to make it offputting, and anyway I certainly can’t complain, as I often do in Japan, that I actually learnt very little. Before or after going it is well worth buying a copy of The Story of Salt on Amazon to make it all the more interesting and memorable (available only in Japanese in the souvenir shop), but it is certainly possible to spend a fascinating 20 minutes to an hour even without that. Not sure if the staff speak English, but as I said more than enough written translation. Closed on Mondays.
Overall, five stars for location, interactivity, exhibits, being educational, use of English, manageable size, use of technology, the souvenir shop, lack of crowds, the building, and lovely clean toilets. It’s certainly 100 times better than the totally pointless planetarium in Tokyo Skytree, which is kind of the opposite – no English, learn no useful information at all (even in Japanese), overpriced, etc etc…