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, none of these museums in Tokyo will disappoint.
Photo via Miraikan
Miraikan (The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) is a place that teaches you how things happen in the world we live today.
Photo via National Museum
Permanent exhibits at National Museum of Nature and Science include the evolution of living things including a display of dinosaur skeletons, the flora and fauna of Japan including rice and the influence of rice cultivation on technology, the peoples of Japan throughout history including the Jomon and Yayoi civilizations, the Ainu and Ryukyuans, the geology of Japan and the solar system. You can also learn about the history of the human habitation of Japan at the museum.
Photo via Fire Museum
Learn all about the history of firefighting and disaster prevention in Japan at the Yotsuya Fire Museum, a free museum run by the Tokyo Fire Department. Kids can dress up in child-sized firefighter uniforms and let their imaginations run wild as they climb inside of fire trucks and rescue helicopters. Parents will appreciate the museum’s collection of vintage emergency vehicles and the panoramic view of the Tokyo skyline from the 10th floor.
Photo via Water Science Museum
The Tokyo Water Science Museum in Ariake is a free museum educating children on how municipal water is supplied to homes throughout Tokyo. Kids can learn all about the water cycle, the purification process, and finally how water travels from processing centers to their home faucet through engaging displays and interactive games.
Photo via Panasonic Center
The Panasonic Center in Ariake is an exhibition space where the Panasonic Corporation shares its latest technology and brand communications. It’s home to RiSuPia, a museum where children can play hands-on games related to science and mathematics. Their information center also teaches kids about Panasonic’s efforts to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in a fun and entertaining way.
Photo via Science Museum
This massive museum from the Japan Science Foundation offers five stories of interactive, educational fun dedicated to science and industrial technology. Kids can explore 20 different galleries, covering everything from how Japanese engineers make buildings earthquake-safe to the science behind soap bubbles. The museum also hosts up to 40 live experiment programs a day.
Photo via Cupnoodles Museum
The Cupnoodles Museum in Yokohama is a family-friendly museum dedicated to instant ramen and cup noodles. The museum itself is divided into several major attractions: in the Chicken Ramen Factory you can try your hand at kneading, steaming, and flash frying your own pack of instant ramen. Cupnoodles Park is a children’s play area that allows kids to experience the entire manufacturing process from the perspective of the noodles. Don’t forget to stop by the My Cupnoodles Factory, where you can choose the soup flavor and toppings and design your own original packaging for your cup noodles to take home as a souvenir.
Photo via Edo Tokyo Museum
Aptly located in the shitamachi (old downtown area) of Tokyo, the Edo-Tokyo Museum is highly recommended for people new to Japan or Tokyo. Within the museum is a life-sized replica of the Nihonbashi Bridge, also a great spot for selfies. At the end of the bridge you will find many intricate dioramas of life during the Edo or Tokugawa era. There are also lifelike scale dioramas with homes showing how people lived, worked, and played during seasonal festivals. 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 surrounding neighborhood 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.
Photo via Tokyo National Museum
This is Japan's oldest national museum and houses the largest collection of art in Japan, with over 110,000 objects such as art works, archeological finds, books, photographs and more. Among the artifacts housed here are 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 covering topics from washi (Japanese paper) to Zen art. In short, there is bound to be something to pique or stir your interest. Conveniently located within the spacious 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.
Photo via Bonsai Museum
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 throughout 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.
Photo via Sword Museum
If you are interested in Japanese sword-making techniques, the evolution of Japanese swords throughout history, or are simply in love with the Japanese katana, then the Japanese Sword Museum is the place for you. 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 the 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.
Image via Tatemonoen
As far back as the Edo period, Tokyo has been losing many valuable historical buildings due fires, floods, earthquakes, and warfare. Today, the city’s remaining cultural architecture continues to be eroded due to social and economic changes within the country. Starting in 1993, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government established a seven-hectare Edo-Tokyo Open-air Architectural Museum as part of the Edo-Tokyo Museum. This museum aims to relocate, reconstruct, preserve, and exhibit historical buildings of great cultural value–that were impossible to preserve in their original locations–for future generations.
Photo via Ghibli Museum
If you're a fan of Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and more) than a visit to Ghibli Museum is a must for your to do list. The museum is located at a little over a 15min walk from Mitaka Station beside Inokashira Park in Kichijoji. Spend time viewing some of Studio Ghibli's most famouse works, visiting Miyazaki's workshop, and watch an exclusive short cartoon that can only be seen at the museum.
Please keep in mind that tickets Cannot be purchased at the museum. All tickets must be purchased in advance. For those living in Japan, tickets can only be purchased at a Lawson convenience store kiosk. Tickets go on sale on the 10th of each month for the following month. The website provides an English instructional guide on how to purchase tickets.
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