The captivating world of Japanese Museums

With over 5,000 museums spanning art, history, science, and culture, Japan is a haven for museum lovers from around the world.

Japanese museums beautifully showcase the country’s long history, technological innovations, and creative expressions.

From Tokyo’s renowned galleries to small-town collections, visitors can immerse themselves in the fascinating stories of Japan.

Here is an in-depth look at what makes Japan’s museums so successful, the best cities to visit for museum-goers, the most popular museums to see, and more.

Top museums in Japan

Team Lab - Botanical Garden

Team Lab
Botanical Garden

National Museum of Western Art

National Museum of
Western Art

National Museum of Modern Art - Japan

National Museum of
Modern Art

Best Japanese cities to visit to enjoy museums

With thousands of museums across Japan’s 47 prefectures, museum lovers are spoiled for choice.

Here are 5 cities that you must visit to experience the vibrant museum culture in Japan:

1. Tokyo

As the cosmopolitan capital of Japan, Tokyo is a hub for world-class museums.

The Tokyo National Museum is renowned for its unparalleled collection of Japanese art, from ancient Buddha statues to exquisite samurai swords.

If you are interested in contemporary art, then head to Mori Art Museum.

The Mori Art Museum in the Roppongi Hills complex never fails to impress with its cutting-edge exhibits.

Tourists who like quirky and modern exhibits must visit the Ghibli Museum offers an immersive look into the animations of the beloved Studio Ghibli.

In this museum, you can step into the animated world of Studio Ghibli and live your dream life for a few hours.

Tokyo also offers immersive and futuristic museums like TeamLab, unique options like Ramen Museum and more.

2. Kyoto

Kyoto served as Japan’s imperial capital for over 1,000 years and remains the heart of traditional culture that attracts foreigners and locals alike.

If you wish to enjoy it fully, head to some of the best museums hidden among the temples, shrines and bamboo forests.

The Kyoto National Museum provides insight into the art and history of the city.

Must-see museums include the Kyoto International Manga Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art, and the Miho Museum outside the city.

In these museums, you can witness a stunning collection displayed in a gorgeous architectural setting.

3. Nara

Nara is a city famous for its ancient Buddhist architecture and artifacts.

Being the first capital and the seat of the Emperor of Japan, Nara is a living museum with 1300 years of history.

The museums in the city take pride in displaying its history and art.

The Nara National Museum houses some of the world’s oldest and most precious Buddhist statues and artifacts.

Visitors can also wander the temples and shrines to view masterpieces of Buddhist art, like the Great Buddha at Todaiji Temple.

4. Kanazawa

During the Edo period, the regional lords in Kanazawa nurtured traditional arts and crafts.

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art spotlights the interplay between modern creativity and Kanazawa’s heritage. 

The city also has beautifully preserved teahouse districts and samurai residences dating back centuries.

5. Hiroshima

While tragic history defines Hiroshima, its museums also symbolize peace and hope.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum documents the 1945 atomic bombing, while the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art looks to the future with bold contemporary exhibits.

Baseball fans can also visit the Hiroshima Toyo Carp Museum to learn about the city’s historic pro baseball team.

With world-famous art, centuries of history, and messages of war and peace, Japan’s museums have something for all interests.

For art lovers, a journey through Japan promises fascinating and unforgettable museum experiences.

Most Popular Museums

With endless options, prioritizing the most renowned museums can help visitors maximize their experience. 

Here are some of Japan’s most popular and worthwhile museums to visit.

Tokyo National Museum

Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the country’s first and largest museum.

The museum houses a vast collection of Japanese art, sculpture, calligraphy, archeology and historical relics spanning over 100,000 objects.

Ghibli Museum (Tokyo)

Located in Mitaka, this whimsical museum celebrates the animated works of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli through interactive exhibits and galleries.

The museum takes you through the famous Ghibli animated universe.

You can enjoy rooms filled with animations, short films and play spaces.

Osaka Castle Museum

Housed within Osaka’s iconic castle, this museum documents the castle’s rich history through models, artifacts and screens. A real highlight.

Cup Noodles Museum (Yokohama)

An interactive, fun museum exploring instant noodles’ invention and global impact, complete with hands-on noodle-making experiences.

After a fun museum tour, you can try your favorite ramen flavors here.

Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum

 With over 40 complete dinosaur skeletons, this museum located in Katsuyama contains the most dinosaur fossil remains in Japan and the entire Asian continent.

The Appeal of Japanese Museums

Japan’s strong museum culture stems from various factors that make them dynamic and accessible places to visit.

Museums are integral in preserving Japan’s history, heritage, and cultural artifacts.

The Japanese hold great pride in their cultural legacy, perfectly displayed in the museums. 

Japan’s museums contain unparalleled art collections, archeology, samurai history, and technology. 

The best collections in the world of Japanese art are found within the country.

The museum goes past just regular art exhibits.

Japanese museums are at the forefront of interactive and technologically advanced exhibits that engage visitors. 

Robot guides and VR experiences bring exhibits to life.

Not only the exhibits but the museum buildings are also designed to impress and immerse visitors. 

Stunning modern buildings like Tokyo’s Nezu Museum and historical sites like Nijo Castle in Kyoto are some museums where you can enjoy the architecture. 

Hence, a visit to the world-renowned Japanese Museum is a must-try. 

Photo by Luke Galloway on Unsplash