Japan is a country full of museums! Whether you are here to learn about the country’s layered culture, art, or history, there is a museum for everyone. Whether you are a conventional museophile looking for a survey of Japanese heritage, a history geek wanting to delve into Japan’s past, or an eclectic explorer seeking something unique, you will find what interests you in the Land of the Rising Sun.
For me, Japan is such a special place. Personally, I love learning about Japanese design and how it is so integral to daily life. One of the most interesting parts of each of these museums is that the architecture itself is worth visiting alone–each museums attempts to capture themes in the way the building is structured.
With more than 110,000 items in its collection, the Tokyo National Museum is Japan’s most famous and most-visited museum. You’ll need a full day to visit in order to see everything–you can find items such as samurai swords and woodblock prints dating all the way back to 538 AD. Stored in five different buildings, plan an extra day to wander through on your trip to Tokyo. (Especially if you want to get a chance to explore some lesser-visited areas of the city or check out the temporary exhibits!)
Tokyo wasn’t the major metropolis that it is today. It was once a small fishing village that grew rapidly into the nation’s capital. The museum includes scale models and a life-sized reproduction of the historic Nihonbashi Bridge, allowing you to step back in time and imagine what life must have been like in Japan’s vibrant feudal period. It also gives you a chance to see how quickly Japan’s culture has changed over the last few hundred years and how it affects the present day.
At the top of the Mori Tower Building, there’s a great museum with a number of temporary exhibits displaying modern art from local artists and those from around the world. After you have taken the time to appreciate the art stowed here, make sure to visit the observation deck offering a 360-degree view of the city. It’s a great reminder of how this metropolis shaped each artist’s vision.
Located on the fifth floor of the Taimeiken restaurant in Tokyo (the food isn’t great, but it’s worth visiting) this building is full of beautiful kites dating back to almost every era of Japanese history. The most impressive are those that are painted in the Edo Kaku style, which mostly depict famous heroes from mythology. Well-worth spending an afternoon in order to see this stunning art form!
Not far from the looming Mount Fuji is the unique Hakone Open-Air Museum. You’ll need to take an express train from Tokyo that takes about an hour, but it’s worth taking a little extra time out of your itinerary in order to see the outdoor gallery featuring work by some famous artists such as Rodin, Picasso, and more. While you are there, make sure to visit the nearby hot springs or take a hike through the area’s volcanic landscape.
As one of Japan’s most-celebrated artists, Hokusai is known for his works Red Fuji and The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which has graced many a desktop background on laptops. You can find the museum devoted to his work on the east side of Tokyo, which also include a number of other pieces of art dating from the 18th and 19th centuries in the collection. The building is also an incredible example of Japanese architecture and was designed by the famed Kazuyo Sejima.
Built in remembrance of the horrific bombing of Hiroshima, this museum details the events of the bombing itself as well as how the local people recovered after such a tragedy. Opened in 1955, exhibits include scientific information about the bomb, as well as items that were recovered after the bombing. You can see personal belongings such as a melted lunch box, a scorched uniform, and damaged roof tiles that were melted during the explosion. It’s a reminder of the horrors we often inflict upon each other as humans and a plea to never have something like this happen again.
Have you ever visited any of these? Any others you would recommend?
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