Top Art Museums in Japan | Artworks of Tokyo, Kyoto & More

Top Art Museums in Japan | Artworks of Tokyo, Kyoto & More Whether you choose travel packages or tailor-made Japan tours, all the variations s

Top Art Museums in Japan | Artworks of Tokyo, Kyoto & More

Whether you choose travel packages or tailor-made Japan tours, all the variations should certainly include at least a couple of art museums. A country so well-known for its distinct culture and broad historical background, Japanese representation of art is just fascinating. 

However, with as many as a few thousand art museums and galleries in the country, it can be extremely difficult to choose the ones that are essential to visit. Keep on reading for our list of the best of the best, most based in Tokyo, Kyoto, and other big cities. 

Hakone Open-Air Museum

Instantly, we are introduced to the rare and special way the Japanese show off their appreciation for art. Hakone Open-Air Museum is more than just a gallery – it is an experience. 

Opened in the 1960s in Hakone, the museum is the first open-air museum in Japan, unique in its unburdened mix of contemporary art and nature. The vast outdoor exhibition works perfectly with minimally-trimmed natural surroundings, enhancing your experience to feel like a movie. 

Housing over a thousand sculptures and other pieces of art, the Hakone Open-Air Museum presents you with works of Picasso, Henry Moore, Taro Okamoto, Yasuo Mizui, Susumu Shingū, and many others. 

Hakone Open-Air Museum:

Mori Art Museum

Now this one is considered essential while exploring Tokyo. The locals suggest that if you are not much of a museum-goer or have limited time to see the best sites of the capital city, Mori Art Museum is the only one that is a must. 

The contemporary art museum primarily exhibits works by Asian artists, so you will undoubtedly see Asian culture incorporated into some rare and exciting modern-art pieces. The creators are also very into high-intricacy architecture, so your surroundings are very urban and even futuristic, quite the opposite of the Hokana Open-Air Museum we just mentioned. 

Engaging an audience from school-age children to experienced art lovers, Mori Art Museum might just be the highlight of your Japanese holiday. 

Kyoto National Museum

After getting your fill of modern art, jump on the train from Tokyo to Kyoto and get ready for a whirlwind of some top-tier Japanese art. 

Focusing on pre-modern Japanese and Asian art, Kyoto National Museum is one of the best ways to get a closer look at highly-developed cultural aspects and some distinct ways the locals represent years of Japanese traditions. When we say locals, we, of course, mean the whole of the country and the Asian community, but you get the drill! 

Initially known as the Imperial Museum of Kyoto, it was established in the 19th century and has overcome some dramatic changes over the years. Nowadays, you can appreciate 

the Fine Arts section of sculptures, paintings, and works of calligraphy; the Handicrafts, including pottery, fabrics, and metalwork, and finally, the Archeology wing to see some of the most fascinating pieces of history and ancient times. 

Asian Calligraphy:

Chichu Art Museum

After some of the most widely-acclaimed museums in Japan, such as the ones above, let’s explore some more unique galleries, like the Chichu Art Museum. 

A museum built directly under the southern portion of the island of Naoshima, Chichu mixes uncommon surroundings with some of the best depictions of natural scenery. The whole idea behind this gallery is to make visitor rethink their relationship with nature. However, unlike the Hakone Open-Air Museum, where you get to admire the artwork in, well, open air, Chichu invites you into the subterranean world of art. 

Despite the museum being solely underground, the design allows a lot of natural light inside, changing the setting and your general perception several times a day, depending on the position of the sun, etc. See some of the most colorful and beautiful canvases buried safely under Japanese soil! 

Oil Canvas, Nature

Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Lastly, let’s take a trip to Matsumoto – an iconic Japanese city located in Nagano Prefecture, known quite well for its Museum of Art, one you should definitely visit! 

Dare we say bizarre, yet so distinctly Japanese, the Matsumoto City Museum of Art is a journey through colorful and refreshing designs, appealing both to children and adults. Most galleries and pieces represent the specific pattern of polka dots, making some well-known images funny and different. For example, have you ever seen cans of polka-dotted Coca-Cola lined up and presented as art? 

The museum, however, might not be for everyone. The images are quite loud and, at times, hallucinatory, but if you find beauty in vivid coloring, you will certainly love this one. 

There you go! Five awesome, unique, and exciting museums with precise Asian representation, high-quality art pieces, and unusual surroundings that accompany and match the exhibitions. Get ready for different experiences than you might be used to while visiting a museum, and take your time exploring. Good luck!