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Art and Museums in Kyoto

The city of Kyoto is interesting and fascinating, and its many museums make it even more so.

The National Museum is one of the most important museums in Japan, with its collection of traditional Japanese artifacts; while the many art museums – such as the MOMAK, the Nishijin Textile Center, and Raku Museum – are wonderful locations for gaining insight into Japanese art.

Last but not least, there are two museums that the whole family will surely love: the Eigamura Museum, part of the Toei Studios, and the Manga Museum, with a huge collection of manga that you can freely consult.

Check out our brief article below to learn more about the museums in Kyoto!

Highlights

  • In Kyoto you will find many different kinds of museum that will make everyone happy
  • The Kyoto National Museum is one of the most important history museums in Japan
  • The Raku Museum hosts traditional Japanese pottery, created with centuries-old techniques
  • The Museum of Modern Art is devoted to the collection of Japanese modern art
  • The Eigamura and the Manga Museum are perfect for relaxing and enjoying some good-quality entertainment

History museums

In Kyoto you will find some of the best historical museums in the whole country, especially the Kyoto National Museum, which is one of the most important museums in all Japan. If you wish to learn more about the culture and history of Kyoto, head to the Museum of Kyoto to admire one of its many permanent exhibitions.

Kyoto National Museum

The Kyoto National Museum is one of the oldest museums in the country, and also one of the most important. Its permanent collection, focused on traditional Japanese art, is routinely presented in exhibitions throughout the year. There you will find a huge variety of cultural treasures, such as ceramics, paintings and archeological relics.

Inside the original main building of the museum, built in 1895, you will find some temporary special exhibitions. The building itself is an attraction; along with the main entrance gates, it is a beautiful example of Meiji architecture.

The museum of Kyoto

The museum of Kyoto is just 5 minutes’ walk from Karasum-Oike Station, and it offers an appealing permanent exhibition on the history of Kyoto. It is an extremely interesting museum. You should, however, note that information in English is limited, and it can be difficult to fully appreciate the exhibitions if you don’t speak Japanese.

Art and craft museums

There is no lack of art museums in Kyoto: just visit the Raku Museum or the Nishijin Textile Center to see some amazing exhibitions of pottery or kimono; or the Museum of Modern Art and the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art (extremely close to each other) to gain a grasp of the current state of modern art in Japan.

Raku Museum

The Raku Museum is just 15 minutes from Imadegawa Station and 2 minutes from Kyoto Station. It houses pottery created using the traditions and techniques of the Raku family, originating with the patriarch of the family about 450 years ago.

Raku pottery is a traditional Japanese art form, and its pieces are formed by hand (rather than on a potter’s wheel). The pottery is beautifully imperfect: with irregular shapes and uneven edges. What you find here, especially the chawan (large tea bowls), is mostly used for tea ceremonies.

Exhibits have English captions and change many times during the year.

Nishijin Textile Center

If you love textiles, be sure to put this museum on your list. The Nishijin Textile Center is the main attraction in Nishijin, Kyoto’s traditional weaving district, 10 minutes’ walk from Imadegawa Station. The center has an interesting display of kimono.

You can observe some Nishijin ladies operating traditional looms and, if you are lucky, you may have a chance to assist in a kimono fashion show.

There is a large shopping section where you will be sure to find the kimono you are looking for.

Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

The Museum of Modern Art – also known by its initials, MOMAK – has a new exhibition every couple of months, in order to display its huge permanent collection of more than 11,000 pieces of modern art. Sometimes, it organizes special exhibitions in partnership with other museums.

The collection specializes in western Japanese art from Kyoto and the Kansai region. Among the many pieces of art, you will find many paintings, ceramics, sculptures, textiles and woodwork.

The museum is near the Heian Shrine, and the building itself is an example of modern architecture.

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art

Located near the Heian Shrine and across from MOMAK, the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art was opened in the 1930s to celebrate the accession of the new emperor. The first floor of its large building often hosts free shows, which are always worth a look – many are extremely good.

During the year there are several special exhibits, usually featuring famous Japanese artists or art movements. If you are in Kyoto from May to June, be sure not to miss the Kyo-ten exhibit, consisting of work from some of the best artists in Kyoto. You will find oil painting, lacquerware, textiles, and much more.

The museum is under renovation until 2020: you can still visit, but you might have to use a secondary entrance.

Entertainment museums

If after so much culture you would like to relax and explore a more laid-back side of Kyoto, visit the following two museums.

The Toei Uzumasa Eigamura is a big theme park used to film historical movies and TV dramas, and going there will make you feel like you have traveled back in time. The Manga Museum, on the other hand, has an impressive collection of manga (mostly Japanese, but some from other countries) that you can browse freely.

Toei Uzumasa Eigamura

Close to both Uzumasa-Koryuji Station and Hanazono Station, the Eigamura is part of the Toei film studios and consists of a theme park, with plenty of sets that have been used down through the years to film popular movies and TV shows. Basically, Eigamura is a small town from the Edo period (1603-1868), an ideal place for filming historical movies.

In the park you will find replicas of the Nihonbashi Bridge, a Meiji period (1868-1912) police box, a traditional court house, etc. Visitors can also observe actors filming the scenes. Besides, you will find a maze, a 3D theater, a haunted house, and much more; you won’t have time to get bored!

Kyoto International Manga Museum

Beside Karasuma-Oike Station you will find the Kyoto International Manga Museum (used for manga research and to hold exhibits).

The museum was opened in 2006 and all the walls on its three floors are lined with shelves full of manga. Visitors can freely browse this massive collection, and there is also a small section dedicated to foreign manga.

During the year, you will be likely to have a chance to visit temporary exhibitions on various themes.

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