10 of the best art museums in Japan | Holidays in Japan

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Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

One of Tokyo’s most innovative art museums, the Mori Art Museum occupies the 52nd and 53rd floors of the 54-story building in Roppongi Hills. The museum has no permanent collection; instead, it presents an ever-changing collection of installations and temporary artworks. The largest solo exhibition ever by Japanese installation artist Shiota Chiharu runs until October 27 and features his famous large-scale installations using wire, but also video footage of performances, photographs, drawings and performing arts materials. Upcoming exhibits include one on what it means to be human, exploring AI, robotics and our future lives (November 19 – March 29).

art museum map

Museum tickets include access to the 52nd-floor Tokyo City View observation deck and rooftop Sky Deck.
Adult ¥1,800 (£13), child ¥600 (£4.50), mori.art.museum

Hakone Open Air Museum, Kanagawa

Statues of Emile Antoine Bourdelle at the Hakone Open Air Museum. Photography: Aliyah

Hakone is a hot spring town located an hour by express train southwest of Tokyo. Among forested hills and mountains, with Mount Fuji not far away, the city receives more than its fair share of weekend and day-trippers from the capital eager to soak in the onsen baths and see the volcanic landscape of the region. But all visitors should allow a few hours to explore the seven-hectare Hakone Open-Air Museum, an open-air gallery that features works by sculptors like Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin, as well as a collection of paintings and sculptures by Picasso.
Adult £11.50child £6, hakone-oam.or.jp

Kofukuji National Treasure Museum, Nara

Kofukuji Shrine and Pagoda.
Kofukuji Shrine and Pagoda. Photography: Chanon Kanjanavasoontara/Getty Images

Within the grounds of Kofukuji Temple in Japan’s former capital, Nara, 45 minutes south of Kyoto by train, the Kofukuji National Treasure Museum contains an exceptional collection of Buddhist artwork, including statues, books, paintings, temple bells and ritual instruments. The oldest works date from the Asuka period (538-710 AD) – around the time the temple was founded in 669 – and many pieces in the collection are designated National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.
£4.50/£3, kohfukuji.com/english.html

Sapporo Art Park, Hokkaido

Yellow sculpture called You are my chair, I am yours by Shigeo Fukada at Sapporo Art Park in Hokkaido Japan
Photography: Aliyah

Sapporo is the largest city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, and its notable museum is Sapporo Art Park, an hour south of the city by train and bus. The leafy park is home to both the Sapporo Museum of Art, which exhibits artists with close ties to Hokkaido, and the Sapporo Sculpture Garden, which houses 74 sculptures, each designed to complement its outdoor setting. Although the garden is only open from April to November, you can explore the grounds on snowshoes in winter (rent them at the reception, available from January 5 to March 10).
sculpture garden £5/free, art museum prices vary by exhibition, artpark.or.jp/en

Sumida Hokusai Museum, Tokyo

Sumida Hokusai Museum
Photography: Aliyah

Few Japanese artists capture the imagination as well as Hokusai. the ukiyo e (woodblock print) is best known for The Great Wave Off Kanagawa and Red Fuji, two of a series titled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. The Sumida Hokusai Museum in eastern Tokyo is dedicated to the artist, with a permanent gallery of Hokusai prints and temporary exhibitions showcasing a wider variety of the artist’s work. Although the art dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, the museum building is a superb example of modern architecture, designed by renowned architect Kazuyo Sejima.
£3 / £1.50, prices for temporary exhibitions varyy, hokusai-museum.jp

Toyota City Museum of Art, Aichi

Toyota City Art Museum

Architect Yoshio Taniguchi, best known for designing New York’s Moma Museum, was the principal designer of the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, which houses an international collection of 20th-century works and a rotating selection of special exhibits. The remarkable museum building is complemented by gardens designed by the famous American landscape artist Peter Walker, a student of Hideo Sasaki. The best place to view the museum is from the second-floor pool; visit at dusk to see the museum and its lights reflected in the water. Toyota is 30 km southeast of Nagoya.
£2/£1.50, museum.toyota.aichi.jp

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka

Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka

Fukuoka is the closest major Japanese city to mainland Asia, so it’s no surprise that the largest collection of Asian art in the world can be found in this city, at the Fukuoka Asia Art Museum. Opened in 1999, the museum has built up a permanent collection of around 3,000 works of modern and contemporary art which are displayed in rotation alongside temporary exhibitions which change regularly. Twenty-three countries are represented in the permanent collection, from Indonesia to Mongolia.
£1.50/75p, faam.city.fukuoka.lg.jp

National museums, various places

Kyushu National Museum near Dazaifu.
Kyushu National Museum near Dazaifu. Photography: kanonsky/Getty Images

There are four national museums in Japan, one in Tokyo, one in Kyoto, one in Nara and one in Kyushu (Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture). These museums house some of the most impressive collections of art and artifacts in the country, including a huge range of premodern and prehistoric works. The museums of Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara were all established at the end of the 19th century and their buildings are impressive examples of Meiji era (1868-1912) architecture. The Kyushu Museum, on the other hand, opened in 2005 and is a bold piece of modern design designed to blend with both the sky and the mountain.
Tokyo National Museum £4.50/£3, tnm.jp; Kyoto National Museum £3.50/£2, kyohaku.go.jp; Nara National Museum £3.50/£2, narahaku.go.jp; Kyushu National Museum £3/£1.50, kyuhaku.jp

Kumamoto Museum of Contemporary Art

Kumamoto Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan.  from https://www.facebook.com/%E7%86%8A%E6%9C%AC%E5%B8%82%E7%8F%BE%E4%BB%A3%E7%BE%8E%E8% A1%93%E9%A4%A8-181283245248787/

A few minutes walk from Kumamoto Castle, this museum focuses on national and international contemporary art. It is small like museums, made up of three paid spaces and a public space featuring permanent installations by Yayoi Kusama, James Turrell, Tatsuo Miyajima and Marina Abramović. Since the Kumamoto earthquake in 2016, the museum also displays information about the area’s recovery efforts as well as local history.
Admission varies by exhibition, camk.jp

Kubota Itchiku Art Museum, Yamanashi

Kubota Itchiku Art Museum
Photograph: Getty Images

The Tsujigahana silk dyeing process, used to decorate kimonos in the Muromachi period (1333-1573) was considered lost until revived by artist and dyer Kubota Itchiku (1917-2003) . The Kubota Itchiku Art Museum was built by Itchiku towards the end of his life and is dedicated to his work with kimonos and other art forms. It sits on the edge of Kawaguchiko, one of the five lakes at the foot of Mount Fuji, and includes several buildings and a garden designed by Itchuku to blend into the unique natural setting of the Fuji area.
£9/£6.80, itchiku-museum.com

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