Top Museums in Japan

The most interesting and unique museums you will want to add to your list for when you travel to Japan

If you're like me and are passionate about the Japanese culture, then you will want to see as many museums in Japan as possible. There are many museums to add to your itinerary. The good news is that Japanese museums are interesting, interactive and some are truly unique, entirely different from your usual boring displays.

You have the gorgeous and interactive Ghibli museum, which is great for anyone who wants to get close to Totoro in real life. There is the Hiroshima peace memorial museum which is a must see for anyone who would like to understand more about the history of the country. Art museums are especially fascinating, with the Hakone open air museum being one of the most unusual and visited places in the whole of Japan. And in recent times, international art collectives like teamLab and the world famed Yayoi Kusama really put Japan on the map when it comes to extraordinary and captivating art.

I love art and appreciate a good museum, which is why I want to introduce you to the most exciting museums in Japan. Here's the list to help you create a truly captivating art itinerary when planning your trip to Japan.

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1. Hakone open air museum

One of my favourite museums in Japan is the Hakone open air museum, located in Hakone, just two hours from Tokyo. Many add this museum to their itinerary when they visit Hakone and for good reason. This is the first open air museum, opened in Japan in 1969. As the name suggests, to visit it, you will walk around a large collection in open air. The collection is exposed to the elements, which means you can expect to see mostly sculptures. There is also a permanent collection indoors.

The outdoor exhibition has pieces from significant international artists, including 10 different pieces by Henry Moore. One of my favourite pieces is the Goto Ryoji's "Intersecting Space Construction", created in 1978. Don't miss "The Kiss" created by famous Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși and see the Picasso Hall which features 300 pieces from artist Picasso.

Address: 1121 Ninotaira, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0407, Japan
Opening times: Mon - Sun 9am - 5pm

Hakone Open Air Museum in Japan
Hakone Open Air Museum in Japan
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2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

History enthusiasts will want to make their way to Hiroshoma to visit the Hiroshima Peace memorial museum. A word of warning, the whole museum is dedicated to documenting the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II.

It goes without saying that this museum was created to leave a deep mark in our hearts. Among the collection, you will see belongings left by victims, and other materials related to the horrors of the event.

Address: 1-2 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima, 730-0811, Japan
Opening times: Mon - Sun 8:30am - 5pm

Japanese man paying respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Japanese man paying respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
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3. Yayoi Kusama museum

Even if you don't really know who Kusama is, I can assure you that you've definitely seen one of her works before. Yayoi Kusama, sometimes refer to as the princess of polka dots, is a Japanese contemporary artist who works in sculpture and installations. She is well known for her infinity rooms and for her large Yellow Pumpkin sculpture perched on the pier of island of Naoshima.

Yayoi Kusama's work has been featured internationally. Some of her installations can be seen in contemporary art museums all around the world, including Tate Modern in the UK.

The Yayoi Kusama Museum is located in Tokyo in Shinjuku. The museum opened in 2017, and it spans over 5 stories. It features over 600 of Kusama's works.

The famous Yayoi Kusama pumpkin on Naoshima island
The famous Yayoi Kusama pumpkin on Naoshima island
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4. teamLab Museum

teamLab is an art collective created in Tokyo in 2001. The group refer to themselves as ultra-technologists because their art uses digital technology in the most immersive way possible.

There are several museums by team Lab operating worldwide. Currently, in Japan, only teamLab Planets in Toyosu is open to the public. The teamLab Borderless is due to relocate to Toranomon-Azabudai Project and will reopen to the public in 2023.

teamLab Planets focuses on nature and our environment. The concept is that you immerse yourself in the digital art and the boundaries between the self, the others, and the world become continuous.

After a walk around the museum, I can highly recommend lunch at the onsite restaurant called UZU. UZU is a vegan ramen restaurant in art spaces. The most unusual ramen on the menu is the vegan ramen tea, made with Rausu kelp and tea. This restaurant is on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list.

Address: 6 Chome-1-16 Toyosu, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0061, Japan

teamLab digital exhibition in Tokyo, Japan
teamLab digital exhibition in Tokyo, Japan
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5. Tokyo national museum

The Tokyo national museum is located in Ueno Park in Tokyo. I recommend this museum to anyone new to Japan and Japanese culture. Not only, it's considered the oldest museum and the largest art museum in Japan, but also one of the largest art museums in the world.

The museum does have an impressive collection of artwork and cultural objects from Asia. You will learn a lot about ancient and medieval Japanese art. To enter the permanent collection is costs 1000 yen per adult. Special exhibitions are charged separately. You don't need to prebook in advance, you can simply purchase your ticket at the main door.

For first time visitors, I recommend setting aside 4-5 hours to be able to see the whole collection and all the national treasures located in the museum building.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30am - 5pm. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.

Address: 13-9 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-8712, Japan

Inside Tokyo national musesum
Inside the Tokyo National Museum
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6. Studio Ghibli museum

Everyone who loves Studio Ghibli movies must visit the happy Ghibli museum located in Tokyo. This museum was created to relax the soul and make the visitors happy. Now it's essential to remember that you must purchase tickets in advance for the Ghibli museum. No tickets can be purchased on site.

Tickets are very affordable, just 1000 yen for adults. Visitors from abroad can purchase the tickets online from a company called Lawson. Alternative, you can purchase the tickets from Lawson convenience stores when you are in Japan.

Laputa Giant Robot at Studio Ghibli in Tokyo, Japan
Laputa Giant Robot at Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, Japan
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7. Kubota Itchiku Art Museum

There are three reasons why I recommend this museum. It's dedicated to textile artist Itchiku Kubota, known for the tsujigahana silk dyeing technique. The museum has a beautiful garden with a gorgeous tearoom. And finally, you can admire Mt. Fuji from the museum.

This museum is a little different from other Japanese museums because it doesn't have a large art collection or several buildings worth of exhibitions. What makes this museum special is its location, as it's in the wooded hills along the northern coast of Lake Kawaguchiko.

You will see several of Kubota Itchiku's kimono creations, depicting a variety of themes and seasons. This artist dedicated his whole life to mastering the lost art of Tsujigahana silk dyeing used during the Muromachi Period (1333-1573).

Address: 2255 Kawaguchi, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0304, Japan
Opening times: Daily between 10am - 5pm

Kubota Itchiku Art Museum front entrance
Kubota Itchiku Art Museum front entrance, 江戸村のとくぞう, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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8. Edo Tokyo museum

If history is your area of interest, then you must visit the Edo museum in Tokyo in the Ryogoku district. This museum opened in 1993, and it aims to preserve Edo's cultural heritage.

An interesting thing about the museum is its concrete exterior design to resemble the traditional rice storehouses. It's also the same height as the Edo Castle. There are eight floors available to explore to learn more about the Edo period.

The museum is especially popular among tourists and it received well over 1,5 million visitors a year.

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

Geisha figurine at the Edo Tokyo Museum
Kabuki costume on a figurine at the Edo Tokyo Museum
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9. Nezu museum

Calling all art lovers, Nezu museum houses a diverse collection of pre-modern Japanese and East-Asian art. Nezu Museum is well known for its tranquillity and superb Japanese garden. Follow the path along the pond and discover an oasis of calm right in the heart of Aoyama.

For something even more exciting, follow the stone paved path into the trees. There you will find a beautiful teahouse. To enter the garden or the teahouse, you do need to purchase a ticket for the museum.

Address: 6 Chome-5-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0062, Japan
Opening hours: Tue - Sun 10am - 5pm

Beautiful path at Nezu Museum in Tokyo
Beautiful path at Nezu Museum in Tokyo
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10. National Art Center, Tokyo

Located in Roppongi, The National Art Centre is unlike most museums in Japan, and that's because it's empty. That means it doesn't house a permanent collection. It only accommodated temporary exhibitions sponsored and curated by other organisations.

Turns out that this particular way of presenting art has been very successful for the centre. The Monet exhibition in 2007 was the second most visited art gallery in the world.

Address: 7 Chome-22-2 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo 106-8558, Japan
Opening hours: Wed - Mon 10am - 6pm

The superb glass interior at the National Art Centre in Roppongi Tokyo
The superb glass interior at the National Art Centre in Roppongi Tokyo
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11. Otsuka Museum of Art

Otsuka museum of art is located in Naruto in Tokushima Prefecture, and it's one of the largest exhibition spaces in the whole country. Unlike an ordinary art museum, Otsuka museum focuses on displaying full size ceramic reproduction of major works or art including the Sistine Chapel, Scrovegni Chapel and triclinium of the Villa of the Mysteries.

The purpose behind it is to offer Japanese people who cannot travel abroad the opportunity to see these incredibly famous places.

Address: Fukuike-65-1 Narutocho Tosadomariura, Naruto, Tokushima 772-0053, Japan
Opening times: Tue - Sun 9:30am - 5pm

The Otsuka Museum of Art as seen from above
Otsuka Museum of Art, EMS-62 (Edited by 663h), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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12. Mori Art Museum

The Mori Art museum is a contemporary art museum located in Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. I recommend visiting the Mori Art Museum at the same time as you book your visit to the viewing deck on top of Roppongi Hills.

Mori Art museum does not display a permanent collection, but temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists.

Address: Japan, 〒106-0032 Tokyo, Minato City, Roppongi, 6 Chome−10−1, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 53階
Opening hours: Wed - Mon 10am - 10pm; Tue 10am - 5pm

Views of Tokyo from Mori art museum
Views of Tokyo from Mori art museum in Roppongi
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13. Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum

One of the leading dinosaur museums in Asia, the Fukui dinosaur museum exhibits an array of fossils. Visitors can see dinosaur skeletons, fossils, and some reconstruction models. And of course, there are dinosaur robots with realistic motions.

The museum is famous internationally thanks to the Fukui raptor, the first complete carnivorous dinosaur skeleton to be reconstructed in Japan.

Address: 51-11 Murokocho Terao, Katsuyama, Fukui 911-8601, Japan
Opening times: Mon - Sun 9am - 5pm

Dinosaur Skeleton in Fukui Prefectural Museum
Dinosaur Skeleton at the Fukui Prefectural Museum
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14. Railway museum

There are several railway museums in Japan, but perhaps the most famous one is in Saitama. Train and Shinkansen enthusiasts will love this museum, as it's home to railway cars, train models, mini trains and even train cab simulators.

If Saitama is not on your itinerary, perhaps you would wish to consider the Kyoto railway museum. It features 53 real, full-sized train cars.

Saitama Railway Museum in Japan
Saitama Railway Museum in Japan, sodai gomi, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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15. Inujima Seirensho Art Museum

One of the most interesting museums in Japan is the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum, built around the idea that we should use what already exists. Once a copper refinery, the building dates bate to 1909. After 90 years of inactivity, architect Hiroshi Sambuichi turned the building into something quite extraordinary with an environmental system. The museum uses solar, geothermal and natural energies to minimise any environmental impact.

Now an art gallery, everyone can come and relax in this outstanding project focused on sustainable practices.

Address: 327-4 Inujima, Higashi Ward, Okayama, 704-8153, Japan
Opening times: Wed - Mon 9am - 4:30pm

Inujima Seirensho Art Museum
Inujima Seirensho Art Museum, KimonBerlin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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16. Nara national museum

Most first time visitors usually include 1-2 days to Nara to their Japan itinerary. What better way to learn about Japanese culture than by visiting one of the greatest museums in Japan. See the Nara National museum, located just a 30 min walk from the JR Nara Station.

This museum is one of the most outstanding art museum in Japan and has been designated as Important Cultural Property. Visitors will enjoy a vast range of Buddhist art among other collections.

Address: Japan, 〒630-8213 Nara, Noboriojicho, 50
Opening times: Tue - Sun 9:30am - 5pm

Nara National Museum front entrance
Nara national museum, 663highland, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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17. Toyota commemorative museum

Even if you're not a car lover, you will still enjoy this museum. Toyota automobile museum is a technological museum in Nagoya. Established in 1994, the museum is houses in an old red brick textile factory.

This is especially interesting as Toyota started as a textile company before moving into the automobile space.

Address: 4 Chome-1-35 Noritakeshinmachi, Nishi Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 451-0051, Japan
Opening times: Tue - Sun 09:30am - 4:30pm

Toyota commemorative museum as seen from the viewing platform
Toyota commemorative museum, Joyofmuseums, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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18. The Sand Museum

One of our favourite museums, The Sand Museum, is located by the Tottori Dunes. The dunes were formed thousands of years ago. The sand comes from the Sendai River when it was dumped into the sea. Strong winds deposited the sand along the coast, creating this incredible oasis.

The dunes attract over two million visitors a year and there are plenty of things to do in the area including camel rides, sandboarding and of course paying a visit to the Sand Museum

The Tottori sand museum is the only indoor museum in the world exhibiting sand sculptures created by sand sculptors from all over the world.

Address: 2083-17 Fukubecho Yuyama, Tottori, 689-0105, Japan
Opening times: Mon-Fri, Sun. 9:00AM to 5:00PM; Sat 9:00AM to 6:00PM

Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan
Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan
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