Tokyo’s Art Museums

To begin with, it needs to be made clear that the Japanese people absolutely adore art and are masters in aesthetic achievement and design themselves. Tokyo is jam-packed with art galleries and museums, and the below offers just a small preview of what is waiting for you to discover personally…

Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Shibuya

A must visit for ukiyo-e or woodblock prints lovers, this hidden gem of a museum can be found amongst the colourful craziness of Shibuya. The exhibitions tend to change every month, so if you’re in Japan for longer, it’s a nice place to drop in once in a while to see something new. Plus, you’ll get to glide on the wooden floors in those museum slippers! The most recent exhibition was all about cats, as featured in 18th and 19th century artworks regarding daily life. There is a tranquil Zen garden to admire here, too. Get off at the Harajuku Station and head to 1-10-10 Jingumae Street, near Takeshita-dori.

Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, 2-6-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda

If you are staying in Japan for a while and start getting nostalgic about traditional Western culture, Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum is a good place to escape to. An incongruous mix of both 19th century European art (including an impressive 200 works by Toulouse Lautrec) as well as Japanese art, this collection is housed in an interesting and quite new replica of an original 1894 colonial building (demolished here in 1960s), now surrounded by skyscrapers. Exhibits tend to focus on how Eastern and Western art forms converge and borrow from one another, and are well worth seeing. Do make a point of visiting the “turn-of-the-century Europe” themed café!

The National Art Center, Roppongi, Minato

When you travel to Tokyo, this is a must for art lovers, as exhibitions at The National Art Center are big – as in Cezanne and the Hermitage big, featuring famous works from noteworthy museum collections around the world. The NATC building itself is architecturally impressive in its scope and design as well, looking like a huge metal and glass tsunami wave, which gets nicely lit up in the evenings. Your entry ticket also includes a discount to visit the other nearby members of the Roppongi Art Triangle: the Mori Art Museum and Suntory Museum of Art. The Centre has a direct exit from Nogizaka station.

Bridgestone Museum of Art , 1-10-1 Kyobashi, Chuo

I don’t know about you, but I adore the Impressionists, and so do the Japanese (the no.1 nation to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam each year). This gallery offers a great pick of top European 19th and 20th century artists, including Picasso, Cezanne, Manet, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Sisley, as well as a lovely selection of Japanese art. A really nice touch here are the plentiful seats from which you can contemplate the masterpieces a little longer. Not far to walk from Tokyo Station.

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Patricia Bieszk is a freelance writer, a tireless traveller and an avid admirer of art and all things Japanese.

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