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8 Best Museums in Tokyo: Art, Science, Swords and Beyond

Post: Wednesday October 12, 2016

If you are a fan of museums - be it for art, science or nature - or are keen to get to know more about Japanese culture, Tokyo is the right place to be. Japan's capital has a plethora of excellent museums (and of course - ladies especially take note - museum cafes). Whether you crave a day of intellectual enrichment, yearn to keep the kids entertained for an afternoon, or are simply looking for a fulfilling way to ride out a few hours of bad weather, these # best museums in Tokyo will not disappoint.

Museums in Tokyo

The Best Museums in Tokyo: 8 Great City Treasures

The Edo-Tokyo Museum

The Edo-Tokyo MuseumPhoto by on oezguerc on flickr

Aptly located in the shitamachi, or old downtown area, of Tokyo, the Edo-Tokyo Museum comes highly recommended for people new to Japan or Tokyo. There is a life-sized replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge, great for your selfie, and at the end of the bridge you will find intricately created replicas of life during the Edo era from the Tokugawa period. You can compare this with modern day Tokyo and how things have changed since then. There are also lifelike scale models of homes and how people lived, worked and played during seasonal festivals, not unlike what is carried on to this day. The displays go on to depict the progression of history into the Meiji Restoration and Japan's transition into the modern era from Samurai times. Together with a visit to Ryogoku, the neighborhood surrounding it where you can see a sumo match or just walk around the nostalgic streets, this is undoubtedly one of the must-see museums in Tokyo.

Admission charge: Yes

The Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National MuseumPhoto by Pedro Layant on flickr

This is Japan's oldest national museum and houses the largest collection of art in Japan, and the world, with over 110,000 objects such as art works, archeological finds, books, photographs etc. and of those artifacts, 87 Japanese National Treasures and 610 important cultural properties. Here you will find various special exhibitions being held at the same time, as well as events, lectures and symposiums from washi (Japanese paper) to Zen art. In short, there is bound to be something to catch or stir your interest. Conveniently located within the sprawling Ueno Park, this museum houses two restaurants, a coffee shop, and a souvenir shop where you can get a unique take-home gift with a touch of culture and history.

Admission charge: Yes

The National Museum of Nature and Science

The National Museum of Nature and Science 1 The National Museum of Nature and Science 2Photo by

Also located in Ueno Park, this museum is sure to fascinate the kids with displays of the indigenous creatures of the Japanese islands, including dinosaur skeletons, giant bugs and also educate on the tools, instruments and techniques used by the Japanese to observe nature around them. There is also a permanent exhibit on how the first inhabitants of the Japanese islands settled and lived with their surrounding nature. The museum exhibits lead up to modern times and expound modern discoveries. If all that walking around the various exhibition halls starts to take its toll, there are large-screen video presentations on the science of the earth. The museum also has an exploration area playground for families with children from 4 to 6 years of age. A great place for a day of family edutainment!

Admission charge: Yes

Miraikan/National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

Miraikan/National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

“Mirai” means the future, and the Miraikan displays just that - what the future of Japan and the world may look like with scientific developments on earth, within the solar system and in space at large. Here you can be fascinated humanoid robot demonstrations, watch short documentaries in a dome theatre or take part in science experiments. For younger children, there is also a “curiosity field,” an exhibit where parents can enter with their young children and enjoy interactive activities that are designed to stimulate one's curiosity. What's more, “Science Communicators” are on hand to explain the wonder--helping to make this one of the best Tokyo museums in which to learn about our world.

Admission charge: Yes

Shunkaen Bonsai Museum

Shunkaen Bonsai MuseumPhoto by Andreas D. on flickr

For fans of bonsai, or the art of cultivating miniature trees in a pot, the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum is not to be missed. Even if you know nothing about bonsai, here you can try your hand at growing one at a bonsai class taught by Kunio Kobayashi, an award-winning professional bonsai artist who runs the museum and has taught international students over his 30-year career. Classes range from short-term experience classes to weekly or a month-long apprenticeship class. Learn about the beauty of bonsai and you may find yourself growing one at home after a visit to this privately-run Tokyo museum.

Admission charge: Yes

Japanese Sword Museum

Japanese Sword MuseumPhoto by Ashley Van Haeften on flickr

If you are interested in Japanese sword-making techniques, the evolution of Japanese swords throughout history, or are simply in love with Japanese katana, the Japanese Sword Museum will take you through the history of the Japanese sword from past to present. It houses 152 items, including National Treasures that were made by master swordsmiths. You can also view samurai armor here and other weapons used by the samurai warrior, as well as works of famous swordsmiths from the Heian to Edo era (or from A.D.782 - 1867). There are also 1,500 artifacts related to swords on display.

Admission charge: Yes

Hoki Museum

Hoki MuseumPhoto by yisris on flickr

Take a foray into Japan's realist painting scene at this privately-run museum. This is the only museum dedicated to modern realist art in Japan, and showcases over 400 works by some 40 realist painters, ranging from the up-and-coming to established master. The museum's unique architecture was specially constructed with its contents in mind, with three stories - one above ground and two underground, with layers gallery spaces and long corridors, all conducive to the enjoyment of these rare realist works. While the museum is located in the neighboring Chiba prefecture, it is worth the visit for fans of realism and certainly on par with the best museums in Tokyo.

Admission charge: Yes

The Best Museums in Tokyo Include Smaller Galleries

The Best Museums in Tokyo Include Smaller GalleriesPhoto by Yuya Tamai on flickr

Other than the Hoki Museum, there are also plenty of smaller scale galleries for a quick art fix, and for those who are looking for a more serious art infusion, look no further than the Art Triangle of Roppongi-Minato-Azau-Juban for art to suit all tastes. The best Tokyo museums run the gamut from art to science to bonsai and swords, diverse enough offerings to satisfy your intellectual craving or need for a fulfilling family outing--all at affordable prices, of course.


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