JCII Camera Museum 日本カメラ博物館
The JCII Camera Museum is a smallish downstairs space in the Ichibancho district of Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, that exhibits an astonishingly broad range of cameras and camera-related items, belying the size of the premises.
The museum is run by the Japan Camera Industry Institute, which is dedicated to camera-related research, education and archiving. Founded in 1954 as the Japan Camera Inspection Institute (the name change happening in 1999), it opened the JCII Camera Museum in 1989.
The core exhibit at the JCII Camera Museum comprises about 300 cameras that tell the history of camera development in Japan right up to the present day, and is rotated from among the museum's massive collection. In pride of place is the world's first commercially available camera, the 1839 Giroux, which used daguerreotype technology requiring the use of mercury vapor. You can also see Japan's first commercially available camera, the beautifully decorative Tsuikin, from 1854. One corner of the museum recreates a Victorian era photography set-up, with a wooden studio camera the size of a drinks cabinet, and a portable darkroom.
Other, secondary, displays include novelty cameras such as wristwatch cameras, classic old pastel plastic-bodied Polaroid cameras, an early colonoscopy camera, massive vintage professional news photographers' DSLR cameras (some of which cost millions of yen for resolutions in the merely hundreds of thousands of pixels!), industrial cameras, and even spy cameras disguised as Coke cans, wristwatches or walking sticks. Video cameras are also represented in a section of their own.
Many exhibits are organized by manufacturer, with cases showing successive generations of camera models by big names like Nikon, Canon, Sony, Kodak, Minolta, Leica, and Pentax. On the walls are numerous posters from past promotions by numerous camera makers.
The inner workings of cameras are thoroughly explicated with cut-open cameras and lenses that provide a unique opportunity to view their intricate anatomy. A massively blown-up model of an SLR camera demonstrates in slow motion, at the press of a button, the steps and mechanism by which a picture is taken.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy the very realistic 3D photo gallery, and the big colorful cabinet of titillating novelty cameras, camera-related trinkets and mascots associated with the promotion of cameras in past decades.
A large section of the Museum features a short-term special exhibition dedicated to a particular camera theme. This is the only section in which photography is permitted! See what's on now at the JCII Camera Museum.
Exhibits are signposted in Japanese only, but with little loss of intrinsic interest value for the English speaking visitor.
The small shop sells a large range of publications (in Japanese, but with plenty of photos), and some fun camera-related decorative and handy goods.
Hours and Admission
The JCII Camera Museum is open 10am - 5pm (last entry 4.30pm). Closed Mondays, but open if Monday falls on a national holiday, in which case closed the next day, Tuesday. Closed over the year-end/New Year period.
300 yen for adults. Free for junior high school age and under.
1 minute's walk from Exit 4 of Hanzomon Station
8 minutes' walk from Exit 3 of Kojimachi Station
14 minutes' walk from Ichigaya Station, on the JR Chuo-Sobu Line and Shinjuku Subway Line.
B1 floor, JCII Ichiban-cho Buiding, 25 Ichiban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0082 Japan
Tel. 03 3263 7110
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The JCII also operates the free-entry JCII Photo Salon next door to the JCII Camera Museum, hours 10am - 5pm. The JCII Library (10am-5pm) is also in the same building, and is freely accessible to those 18 years of age and over.
The JCII Camera Museum is right behind the British Embassy and near the Paraguay Embassy. See the Kojimachi area guide for more information about nearby attractions.