Some of Japan’s best museums


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21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

In contrast to Kanazawa’s traditional architecture, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is a startlingly modern building housing an impressive collection of contemporary art by renowned Japanese and international artists. Although exhibitions change frequently, permanent installations by James Turrell, Leandro Elrich, and Florian Claar make the museum well worth visiting no matter what else…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Central Honshu  | 

Edo Tokyo Museum

Unlike Ueno Park’s National Museum, which holds treasures and artifacts from throughout Japan’s history, the Edo Tokyo Museum focuses on the history of the city. Designed by Kiyonori Kikutake, the massive concrete structure, inspired by traditional raised warehouses, is a fine example of the Japanese architectural movement of Metabolism. Inside, life-size and scale models of…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  | 

Ghibli Museum

Opened in 2001, Tokyo’s Studio Ghibli Museum is more than a museum of animation- it’s a kind of haven for art – stained glass windows and fanciful architecture, fresco, painting, and film playfully meld together to make a delightful place to take children – whether or not they are familiar with Ghibli’s films. Ghibli fans,…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Hakone Open Air Museum

Chōkoku-no-mori, (“the sculpture forest”), an intriguingly-named station on the Hakone Tozan railway line, is home to the Hakone Open Air Museum. The museum houses over 300 works by Picasso alone, as well as sculptures by many other famous artists, including Henry Moore, Rodin, and Miro. We highly recommend taking advantage of the hot spring foot…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Hiroshima Peace Park

Visiting Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum is likely to be most moving part of your trip to Japan. The spacious park is full of memorials dedicated to those who lost their lives on August the 6th 1945, as well as those who later succumbed to diseases, and is also home to the famous Atomic…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags:

Isamu Noguchi Memorial Garden

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was a prominent Japanese American artist, sculptor and landscape designer. Although born, educated and based in the United States, Isamu Noguchi maintained a workshop in Japan and spent months at a time working there towards the end of his nearly 65 year long career. Noguchi’s major works include bridges at the Hiroshima…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum

The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto is easy to miss: somewhat out of town and best reached by taxi or bus, but it is worth the trip. Now into its eight generation, the Sakai family has one of the largest best collections of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) in Japan, some of them very famous, and some…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Kyoto International Manga Museum

More archive than exhibition, the Kyoto International Manga Museum has a huge collection of of over 30,000 manga (mostly Japanese, with some foreign publications), many of which can be read either inside the building or taken out into the courtyard, where you’ll find others sprawled on the grass engrossed in the stories. There are displays…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Kyoto National Museum

Opened in 1897, the Kyoto National Museum, is one of Japan’s oldest and most distinguished museums. The museum’s permanent collection is presented to the public in rotating exhibitions and consists of a wide variety of cultural properties, including archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, costumes and paintings. Highlights of the Kyoto National Museum’s huge collection include…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Miho Museum

Designed by the famed architect IM Pei, the Miho Museum was the dream of Mihoko Koyama (after whom it is named), the heiress to the Toyobo textile business, and one of the richest women in Japan. The museum houses her private collection of Asian and Western antiques, as well as other pieces with an estimated…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Odaiba lets visitors enjoy hands-on exhibits that are all about the cutting edge of science and technology. Visitors can interact with various scientific fields such as robotics, life science, space science, and environmental science. They also have a state-of-the-art planetarium which projects images of nearly 5…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

Nezu Museum

Originally founded in 1941 to showcase the extensive collection of industrialist Nezu Kaichiro, the museum was redesigned in 2009 by the well known architect Kengo Kuma. Located along a quiet bamboo passage off the busy Omotesando district, the museum showcases one of the world’s finest collections of Japanese and East Asian art, including seven works…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Nishijin Textile Centre

Long considered to be symbolic of Kyoto, the beautiful fabrics of the Nishijin district have a history dating back over a thousand years. The Nishijin Textile Center, centrally located in Imadegawa, is a modern building where demonstrations and exhibits are held on the theme of the traditional Nishijin textile industry. In addition to regular kimono…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Ohara Museum of Art

Opened in 1930, the Ohara Museum of Art in Kurashiki was the first collection of Western art to be permanently exhibited in Japan. The museum originally consisted mostly of French paintings and sculptures of the 19th and 20th centuries but has since expanded to include paintings of the Italian Renaissance and of the Dutch and…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Ota Memorial Museum of Art

A small but excellent museum near Harajuku, the Ota Memorial Museum of Art was founded in 1980 to showcase the vast collection of the late Ota Seizo, the former chairman of a large insurance company. The museum houses about 12,000 ukiyo-e works, including famous works by Hiroshige and Hokusai. Every month, a regularly changing exhibition…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Sakai Knife Museum

The area of Sakai in the outskirts of Osaka has a long tradition and history of knife making. During the Edo Period, following the end of the Samurai wars, blade makers began producing knives for cooking and, following its first import, knives used for cutting tobacco. The tobacco knives produced by the craftsmen of Sakai…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , , ,

Shizutani School

Built in 1670, Shizutani School is Japan’s oldest school for educating common people. It was built under the orders of Ikeda Mitsumasa, the head of the former Okayama feudal domain, who believed that samurai children and common children should obtain the same education. The most unique feature of Shizutani School is that the roof is…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: ,

Suginami Animation Museum

Located in the heart of Tokyo’s anime town, the Suginami Animation Museum opened in 2005 and houses an informative introduction to the Japanese animation industry, as well as seminal cells, pictures and storyboards. A number of the exhibits are interactive: “How Anime is Made” provides a unique opportunity to try voice-overs, dubbing, and other aspects…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Takayama Yatai Kaikan

The huge, majestic and ornate floats used in the Takayama Festival are stored away for the rest of the year and at any one time, four of the 11 floats can be seen at the Takayama Yatai Kaikan. The actual floats on display change throughout the year so that visitors can see the entire collection….

Type: Museums  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

The Japan Folk Crafts Museum

The “Nihon mingei kan” or the Folk Crafts Museum was founded by the leading Folk Crafts’ activist Muneyoshi Yanagi in 1936. “Mingei” literally means Folk Arts in Japanese. The museum was established by Yanagi in order to collect and preserve beautifully crafted objects by unknown artists or talented folk craft from all over Japan. The…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

The Japan Sword Museum

The workmanship of Japanese swords has long fascinated westerners, and the Japan Sword Museum is an essential stop for katana enthusiasts. The weapons are beautifully displayed in a single room and many are famous in their own right. They were made by some of Japan’s most skilled master craftsmen and some are as much as…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

The Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

A must visit for fans of noodles, The “Shinyokohama Ramen Museum” is a unique museum about ramen, a very popular Japanese noodle dish originally introduced from China. The Ramen Museum presents the history of ramen noodles in Japan, including the big success of instant ramen. It displays the variety of noodles, soups, toppings and bowls…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Toba Aquarium

Toba Aquarium is located on the waterfront of Toba Bay, close to the Mikimoto Pearl Island. The aquarium holds one of the largest collections of aquatic life in the country, spread out over twelve separate zones. There is no specific route to follow in the aquarium, and visitors can navigate the twelve zones freely. Animal…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Toei Animation Gallery

Founded in 1956, Toei Animation Company is one of the oldest and most respected animation studios in Japan. Most famous in the west for the serialized Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z, as well as the movies Galaxy Express 999 and One Piece, Toei has, over the years, created hundreds of Japan’s best-loved anime. The…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Tokugawa Art Museum

A private museum housing the hereditary collection of the Owari branch of the Tokugawa clan, a family whose members ruled Japan as Shoguns from 1603 to 1867. The collection contains more than 12,000 items, including swords, armour, Noh costumes and masks, lacquerware, furniture, Chinese and Japanese ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings. The most important and valuable…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum was established in 1872 and is the oldest Japanese national museum as well as the largest art museum in Japan. The museum collects, houses, and preserves a comprehensive collection of art works and archaeological objects of Asia, focusing on Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, including 87 Japanese National Treasures…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Toyota Factory & Museum Tour

Based in Toyota City near Nagoya, the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall features exhibits and audio-visual presentations that illustrate Toyota’s vision of enriching society through car manufacturing, and of the auto maker’s history, as well as its most advanced car manufacturing technologies. The Factory Tour includes visits to the Assembly Shop & Engine Plant, which allows…

Type: Museums  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,