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Museums and Art Galleries in Tokyo

Museums and Art Galleries in Tokyo

By CarolUpdated Oct. 24, 2022

Tokyo has dozens if not hundreds of museums, spanning nearly every topic and interest, such as art and photography, history and science, zoos and aquariums, transportation and commerce, and also anime. Museums in Tokyo are typically closed on one day of the week, usually on Monday, and during the New Year holidays.

Some museums have extended hours on certain days, normally on Fridays, and some offer free entrance to selected exhibitions or on certain days of the month. Most museums also allow entry until 30 minutes before closing time.

Quick Facts

  • The Tokyo National Museum is the largest art museum in Japan.
  • The National Museum of Nature and Science is one of Japan's biggest science museums.
  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is one of Japan's many museums which are supported by a prefectural government.
  • The Edo-Tokyo Museum holds various documents relating to the culture of the Edo period and Tokyo's history.
  • The Shitamachi Museum is dedicated to the history of Tokyo's often-overlooked working-class district.

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Tokyo Museums

Tokyo has an abundance of museums, giving glances into Japan's rich and diverse history, ranging from artifacts of the Jomon period to delicate screens and lacquered boxes in the Rinpa-style, favored by citizens of the Edo period.

Ueno Park is a large public park next to Ueno Station in central Tokyo. It is famous for the many museums found on its grounds, like the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum.

Tokyo National Museum

Tucked in a forest in Tokyo's Ueno area, Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest of Japan's top-level national museums. Fondly referred to as "Tohaku", this museum boasts the largest and best collection in Japan in terms of quality and quantity, housing 117,000 artifacts, 89 of which are national treasures and 643 are important cultural properties.

The large museum complex is home to six separate buildings,each large enough to be considered a museum on its own, which specialize in different types of art and exhibitions.

Its exhibitions include Regular Exhibitions made up of works from the museum's collections and deposited articles from temples or shrines, and Special Exhibitions that are large-scale exhibitions based on a certain theme.

Location: 13-9 Uenokoen, Tait, Tokyo 110-8712, Japan

Transport: 5-10 minute walk from Ueno Station

Opening time: 9:30 to 17:00, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

National Museum of Nature and Science

Located in the northeast corner of Ueno Park, the National Museum of Nature and Science is one of Japan's largest science museums, with over 10,000 exhibits that explore everything from outer space and dinosaurs to the unique ecosystems of Japan and the world's latest developments in technology.

It is filled with authentic artifacts and interactive learning opportunities. Some of the exhibits include the stuffed body of Hachiko and two famous pandas, a fragment of the Nantan meteorite that hit China in the 16th century, a mummy from Japan's Edo period, and an original World War II fighter plane.

Location: 7-20 Uenokoen, Tait, Tokyo 110-8718, Japan

Transport: 5-minute walk from Ueno Station in Ueno Park

Opening time: 9:00 to 17:00, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

Tokyo Metropolitan Museum

The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is a large brick-faced museum located in Ueno Park. It has had its presence in Ueno since 1926. The present buildings, however, date from much later, with some of the new buildings designed in 1975 by Japanese architect Kunio Maekawa, and renovated again in 2010-2012.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum's six galleries exhibit a regularly changing collection of various artistic genres, including painting, sculpture, ceramics and calligraphy, showcasing the works of contemporary Japanese artists as well as artists from overseas.

Location: 8-36 Ueno-Park Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan

Transport: 5-minute walk from Ueno Station in Ueno Park

Opening time: 9:30 to 17:30, closed on every 1st and 3rd Monday and also on the day following a national holiday

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Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo-Tokyo Museum is Japan's premier museum dedicated to the history of Japan's capital city, Tokyo. It is a historical and cultural resource with imaginative presentations, interactivity, and user-friendliness.

Visitors are able to experience and learn about various aspects of the earlier Tokyo, such as the way of life of people, Edo period architecture, cultural heritage, political climate and the commercial situation, in an interactive way.

Location: 1 Chome-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0015, Japan

Transport: Less than five minutes on foot from Ryogoku Station

Opening time: 9:30 to 17:30, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

Shitamachi Museum

This museum was established to teach future generations about the culture of the Shitamachi. Shitamachi refers to the refreshingly attitude-free Taito ward area of downtown Tokyo.

This small two-floor museum preserves some of the essence of the area's life during the Taisho era, displaying actual shop interiors, furniture, tools, implements, amusements, posters from that time of relative liberty and freedom of expression in Japan before the repression and dictatorship of the war years.

Location: 2-1 Uenokoen, Tait, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan

Transport: 5-minute walk from Ueno Station

Opening time: 9:30 to 16:30, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

Tokyo Art Museums & Galleries

When traveling to Tokyo, people's first priority is not often visiting museums. Instead, they're probably hoping to take in the city's natural beauty or to go shopping. Whether you're a visitor or a local, Tokyo museums needn't be an addition or an activity reserved solely for rainy days.

Although Tokyo is the center of Japanese politics and economy, it is also the heart of Japanese culture and contemporary art. There is a vast amount of multi-faceted and unique galleries, scattered across the city.

National Museum of Western Art

Designed by the world-renowned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, the National Museum of Western Art is house to 4,500 works of sculptures and paintings from the last 500 years. This museum was opened back in 1959.

This is the only museum in Tokyo, focused entirely on western artists, and it boasts works by Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Rubens, and Van Gogh. And while the art alone is impressive enough, the architecture and exterior grounds of the museum are particularly stunning.

Location: 7-7 Uenokoen, Tait, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan

Transport: 3-minute walk from Ueno Station in Ueno Park

Opening time: 9:30 to 17:30, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

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National Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art showcases works by both Japanese and international artists, demonstrating the cultural impact the West has had on the country's art, starting at the turn of the 19th century. It holds a huge collection of art ranging from the Meiji era to the modern day.

With over 13,000 items, the works at the Museum of Modern Art reflect a turbulent Japan that was rapidly modernizing and changing, giving you an extensive visual insight into the time period.

Location: 3-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyoda City, Tokyo, Japan

Transport: A few steps from Takebashi Subway Station

Opening time: 10:00 to 17:00, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art was established 1979 in Tokyo's Shinagawa ward and is among the first museums dedicated to modern art in Japan. This museum has a curious collection of modern art, and exhibits paintings, sculptures, videos and installations by Japanese and international artists.

The museum building was originally the private estate of business tycoon Kunizo Hara, who held various posts such as chairman of Tokyo Gas and Japan Airlines and now exhibits about 1,000 paintings, photographs, sculptures, videos and installations representing a wide range of artists from around the world, active from the 1950s to the present.

Location: 4 Chome-7-25 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa, Tokyo 140-0001, Japan

Transport: 15-minute walk from Shinagawa Station

Opening time: 11:00 to 17:00, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

Mori Museum

Located on the top floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills, this innovative museum hosts changing exhibitions of contemporary art from around the world. The exhibitions are world-class, focused primarily on contemporary culture.

The exhibitions displayed are purposely varied, with past contributions including Bill Viola's video art, a survey of the Middle Eastern art world and the periodic Roppongi Crossing group shows for Japanese artists.

Location: 53F Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Transport: 5-minute walk from Roppongi Subway Station

Opening time: 10:00 to 22:00

Sumida Hokusai Museum

Opened in 2016 in Tokyo's Sumida City ward, the Sumida Hokusai Museum is a museum dedicated to the ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai, commonly referred to as Hokusai. It features a permanent exhibition room with Hokusai's works throughout his life, as well as exhibition space for rotating temporary exhibitions related to the great painter.

The museum's permanent gallery is located in a relatively small room, but it is packed with interesting art and information. High-quality replicas of Hokusai's artworks are on display, and multilingual panels and videos are provided for more detailed information about the artist, his life and work and woodblock prints.

Location: 2 Chome-7 Kamezawa, Sumida, Tokyo 130-0014, Japan

Transport: 5-10 minute walk from Ryogoku Station

Opening time: 9:30 to 17:30, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

Nezu Museum

The Nezu Museum is a private collection of Japanese and Asian art, ranging from calligraphy to paintings, ceramics, and textiles. The site of the museum and garden used to be the private residence of Nezu Kaichiro, a business person whose career included being the president of Tobu Railway, which he bought in 1906.

The museum now houses 7,400 exhibits, spanning a wide range of genres, including several Buddhist statues and ancient bronzes from China. On the other hand, the seven annual temporary exhibitions feature the rest of the museum's collections like paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, metalwork, ceramics, lacquerware, wooden and bamboo craft, and textiles.

Location: 6 Chome-5 Minamiaoyama, Minato, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan

Transport: 10-minute walk from Omotesando Station

Opening time: 10:00 to 17:00, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

Ota Memorial Museum of Art

Ukiyo-e woodblock prints are a typical Japanese art form, depicting scenes from the "Floating World"such as theaters and teahouses, geisha and cherry-blossoms. They were developed during the Edo period from the 1620s. The Ota Memorial Museum of Art is dedicated to this genre of Japanese art.

This museum hosts a vast collection, comprising 12,000 pieces, including works by Katsushika Hokusai, one of Japan's most famous artists. Each month, 70 pieces from the collection are displayed in a small themed exhibit.

The museum also organizes occasional lectures and offers grants to those interested in researching ukiyo-e. There is also a peaceful Japanese-style rock garden within the museum where visitors can rest and relax.

Transport: 5-minute walk from Harajuku Station

Opening time: 10:30 to 17:30, closed on Mondays and New Year holidays

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Tips for Visiting Museums

Those planning to visit these museums should consider using the Grutto Pass. For 2200 yen, this pass provides entrance or discounted entrance to more than 90 museums around Tokyo. The pass expires two months from its first use. The pass can be purchased at the participating museums.

Museum fans with limited time should consider a visit to Ueno Park where a variety of first class museums are concentrated closely together, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the National Science Museum and Ueno Zoo, along with some smaller museums.

Most of these museums are located close to subway stations. So, travelling by subway to each spot is recommended.

The museums in Tokyo follow the same etiquette as other museums around the globe: being quiet, not crowing the artwork, no taking of phone calls, and not touching the exhibits. Some displays in museums in Tokyo require you to take off your shoes before viewing.

Explore Tokyo with Asia Highlights

Museums in general are fun places to visit. Aside from providing an effective way of learning, museums are a great way to spend time with friends and family. Tokyo has a lot of museums, offering different genres of art and history. Visit them with Asia Highlights and make your trip educational and fun.

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