Last Updated: March 9, 2022

Best Museums in Japan

Wondering which museums in Japan are worth your time? Then you’re certainly in the right place because this detailed guide features everything you need to know about all of Japan’s best museums!

Art museums, historical museums, and unique museums dedicated to specific events and periods from Japan’s history are all on the list. Read on to learn more about the best museums in Japan, and see which ones need to be added to your Japan travel itinerary!

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum is one of the most popular art museums in Ueno Park. This is Japan’s oldest national museum, as well as the largest art museum in the country.

It boasts a permanent collection of various objects and artworks from Asia, including a sizeable collection of medieval Japanese art and Grecco-Buddhist art.

The popular Tokyo museum also owns 89 national treasures of Japan, as well as 644 Important Cultural Properties, and 319 Horyuji Treasures. The museum also has several private collections that were donated to the TNM, most of which are dedicated to Asian art and culture.

The Tokyo National Museum is one of the best museums in Japan for anyone who wants to learn most about the culture and traditions of Japan. Its fascinating exhibits provide a deeper insight into the art and other objects from multiple different eras, while the museum shop boasts a huge collection of the best Japanese souvenirs to take home.

Kubota Itchiku Art Museum

Kubota Itchiku Art Museum is a fascinating art museum near Lake Kawaguchi. It was established by the artist whose name it bears, Kubota Itchiku, and it is entirely dedicated to him and his works.

Everything about this museum is exceptional, from the spectacular nature that surrounds it and the breathtaking views of Mount Fuji to the incredible textile collection inside the museum.

Kubota Ithicku was a textile artist, best known for using the technique of tsujigahana silk dyeing. Most of his work was dedicated to reviving and perfecting the 15th-century technique, but the artist did devise a new technique of dyeing, which allowed him to experiment with modern fabrics he couldn’t use the 15th-century dyeing technique on.

This is a very special museum that should be visited by anyone who enjoys fashion, bright colors, and unique items. If you’re not really into textiles and colored fabrics, Kubota Itchiku Art Museum might not be the best museum in Japan for you.

The National Art Center, Tokyo

The National Art Center, Tokyo

The National Art Center Tokyo (NACT) is a popular art museum in Roppongi, Tokyo. It’s one of the three museums in the Roppongi art triangle, and one of the largest exhibition spaces in the entire country of Japan.

It’s also different from all the other art museums in the country. It doesn’t have a permanent collection, so technically it’s an empty museum. Instead, the NACT displays temporary exhibitions that are sponsored by various other organizations.

During its first operating year, this museum featured 69 different exhibitions, one of which (the Monet exhibit) was the second most visited exhibit that year in the entire world.

Because of the unique operating style of the museum, there’s certainly value in revisiting it wherever you get the chance, especially if you want to see some unique and beautiful art.

Adachi Museum of Art

The Adachi Museum of Art is situated in Yasugi, in the Shimane Prefecture of Japan. It boasts a large collection of modern Japanese art, which includes paintings, sculptures, and wood carvings by renowned Japanese artists.

Yokoyama Taikan, Matsumara Koji, and Hirakushi Denchu are just a few of the dozens of famous Japanese artists whose works are featured in this popular museum.

The museum is also known for its beautiful Japanese gardens. It boasts six traditional Japanese gardens, with ponds, spectacular trees, and sculptures. The gardens are all beautifully landscaped, and they’re easily the highlight of the museum’s collection.

Additionally, this museum also boasts a collection of Pictures for Children, making it a great place for all creative kids.

Hakone Open-Air Museum

Hakone Open-Air Museum

The Hakone Open-Air Museum was the first open-air museum to open in Japan. It was established in 1969, and it boasts a collection of more than a thousand works of art.

Most of those are sculptures created by famous artists, and the museum’s vast collection includes artworks by Picasso, Yasuo Mizui, Henry Moore, Taro Okamoto, and many others.

The outdoor museum park has some 120 permanently displayed structures, which include works by Rokuzan Ogiwara, Constantin Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, and many other famous artists.

Additionally, the Hakone Open-Air Museum also boasts five indoor spaces that display various other works of art. Of these five, the most famous is the Picasso Pavilion hall, which houses around 300 artworks of the famous artist.

Mori Art Museum

Mori Art Museum is a contemporary art museum in Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills. It’s part of the Roppongi art triangle, along with The National Art Museum and the Suntory Museum of Art.

The museum building houses an art gallery, an observatory on the 52nd floor, and a Rooftop Sky Deck where you can admire some spectacular views of Tokyo when you’ve had enough of viewing modern art.

The museum’s collection features works by prominent Asian artists, which includes both paintings, photographs, and other art mediums. A separate space within the museum is used for smaller-scale temporary exhibitions for the promotion of up-and-coming contemporary artists.

It’s worth noting that even the observation deck often hosts special exhibitions, allowing visitors to simultaneously admire spectacular modern art and panoramic views of Tokyo.

Edo Tokyo Museum

Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo Tokyo Museum is a popular history museum situated in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo. It’s dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of Tokyo during the Edo period.

This was the first museum exclusively dedicated to Tokyo’s history. Its exhibits tell the story of Edo, which was the old name of Tokyo city. The museum’s collection includes miniature models of Edo city and its prominent landmarks, as well as models of various other towns during the Showa and Edo Meiji periods.

The most notable exhibit at this history museum is a life-size replica of the famous Nihonbashi bridge. The entire district is named after this bridge, and during the Edo period, it used to be a major trading center of the city.

The Edo Tokyo Museum features a total of eight floors. Two floors are reserved for the permanent exhibits, another two floors house the museum’s many temporary exhibitions, while the rest are reserved for the museum shop, a huge library, restaurants, the ticket center, and a large open-air plaza that sits at the ground level.

Nara National Museum

Nara National Museum is one of the three key national art museums in the country, and an absolute must if you’re visiting Nara for any period of time. The museum boasts a sizeable collection of Buddhist art, including a wide array of sculptures, images, and altar articles. Also, the museum is home to quite a few works of art that belong to the many temples and shrines in the Nara area.

The highlight of Nara National Museum’s collection is the Hell Scroll from the 12th century. The museum also features a sculpture of Buddha Yakushi from the 9th century, as well as Jōdo mandara-zu mandala that’s estimated to be from the 11th or 12th centuries.

In addition to that, this popular Nara museum also boasts a Japanese tea ceremony house in the museum’s inner garden. It’s popular for the Edo-period architectural style, and it’s known as one of the Three Great Tea Houses of Nara.

It’s worth noting that the famous tea house was initially built on the grounds of a temple, but in 1890 the residents of Nara petitioned that the tea house be donated to the then Nara Imperial Museum, for preservation and conservation purposes.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a museum dedicated to the Hiroshima atomic bombing of World War II. The museum is situated within the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which is a large outdoor space dedicated to documenting the aftermath of the atomic bomb and preserving the memories of all the lives lost in the event.

This museum displays all sorts of memorabilia from the victims of the bomb, including photographs, personal objects, documents, and other artifacts that tell the story of the bombing.

These artifacts are part of the museum’s permanent collection and they’re housed in the West Wing, along with other exhibits that focus more on the damage done by the bomb to the people and the city of Hiroshima.

The East Wing wasn’t part of the original museum. It was added during the 1994 renovation, and it features an exhibit on the city during pre-atomic bomb days.

Inujima Seirensho Art Museum

Inujima Seirensho Art Museum is a contemporary art gallery housed in a former copper refinery. The popular museum is situated on Inujima Island, which is a small island in the Seto Inland Sea. It’s one of the top tourist attractions on Japan’s southern coast, and definitely worth your time if you’re ever in the Okayama Prefecture.

The entire concept behind this museum was sustainability. The aim was to utilize a space that was once operational and then abandoned, in order to “use what exists to create what is to be”. It’s a beautiful sentiment and because of it, it’s definitely worth it to visit this contemporary art museum and support it.

The museum beautifully combines modern art and architecture with the ruins of a former copper refinery, for an utterly unique experience for all the visitors.

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum

The Kyoto National Museum is one of the largest and most significant art museums in Japan. It is situated in the Higashiyama ward of Kyoto, and it mainly focuses on pre-modern Asian and Japanese art.

The museum was established in the late 19th century, along with the Tokyo National Museum and the Nara National Museum. It features multiple buildings, with the Special Exhibitions Hall being the most prominent one of them all.

The collection of the Kyoto National Museum includes rare artworks from Japanese and other Asian cultures. It’s divided into three main sections – Fine Arts, Archaeology, and Handicrafts.

These three wings of the museum hold around 12,000 artworks combined, but only half of those can be seen on display throughout the museums.

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum

Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a museum dedicated to Japanese art in Matsumoto. Its collection includes more than 100,000 woodblock prints, and it’s estimated that the museum’s collection is the largest of its kind in the world.

The museum was first established back in 1982 by a member of the prominent merchant family, Sakai. Some of the first items exhibited at this museum were artworks collected by Yoshitaka Sakai.

Members of the family continued to collect all sorts of Japanese artworks, and over time, the museum’s collection has expanded to include quite a few modern and contemporary woodblock prints, in addition to the historical prints from its earliest exhibitions.

If you’re looking to visit a unique museum in Japan, this is certainly one of the best options. The exhibits are truly fascinating and incredibly different from what you can see at most other museums in Japan.

Chichu Art Museum

Chichu Art Museum

The Chichu Art Museum is a famous modern art museum on Naoshima Island. It was designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and it’s best known for being an underground museum.

The fascinating thing about this museum is that, even though it is entirely subterranean, the building design is such that it allows for a lot of natural light inside the building. In fact, there’s so much natural light in the museum that it’s the only thing illuminating certain exhibits.

The permanent collection of this unique museum boasts works from Monet’s Water Lillies series, as well as art installations by James Turell and Walter De Maria.

The museum also boasts a beautiful garden area with 150 different kinds of plants, more than 40 types of trees, and nearly 200 different flowers. Overall, it’s truly a unique experience in Japan, and reason enough to go out of your way to travel to this small island in the Seto Inland Sea.

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology is a popular technology museum in Nagoya. Also known as the Toyota Tecno Museum, it’s an absolute must for anyone who is even remotely interested in cars and technology.

The museum boasts a collection of various artifacts relating to technology and the history of Toyota. This includes some of the first Toyota vehicles that were ever manufactured, modern Toyota supercars, Lexus models, and robots!

The museum’s exhibits also include portrayals of the process of manufacturing a car, with recreations of workers polishing various car parts and attaching them to the vehicle chassis. It’s also possible to see various machinery that’s necessary for the manufacturing of vehicles, as well as fully automated assembly lines.

Fukui Dinosaur Museum

Dinosaur museums are a must for travelers with children and the Fukui Dinosaur Museum is easily the best museum in Japan on that topic. This is also one of the most significant dinosaur museums in entire Asia, and it’s widely known for its many exhibits of dinosaur fossils.

The museum is also renowned for its role in paleontological and dinosaur research. It features an exhibition divided into five different zones – History of Life, Science of the Earth, World of Dinosaurs, Dino Street, and Dino Lab.

World of Dinosaurs is the most extensive exhibit in terms of dinosaur artifacts. It features over 40 dinosaur skeletons, 10 original fossils, and a massive diorama that represents a reconstruction of Zigong’s Jurassic period. The diorama even features robotic dinosaurs that move around and make noises, which is bound to be the highlight of the museum for the younger visitors.

Hida Folk Village

Hida Folk Village

The Hida Folk Village is a folk museum in Takayama. This open-air museum features some 30 old farmhouses that showcase the architectural style prevalent in Japan’s mountainous regions. It’s a fascinating museum for anyone who wants to see a different side of Japan and gain some insight into the lives of people in rural Japan.

The structures in this charming museum are between 100 and 500 years old. Most of them are open for visitors and feature a collection of artifacts from the period when they were constructed. This includes various different objects like cooking utensils and clothing, but also spindles, and artifacts related to raising silkworms.

Additionally, the folk museum also features a workshop that offers visitors an insight into how the many different handicrafts of Japan are made. This includes tie-dying, wood carving, lacquer work, and weaving.

On top of all the fascinating attractions, it’s also worth noting that the nature in the village is absolutely spectacular. The farmhouses are all near a small lake, with numerous trees and flowers in their surroundings. Overall, if you are interested in the traditions and culture of Japanese people outside the big cities, this charming village is easily the best museum in Japan for you.

About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.

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