An Art-Lover’s Guide To Tokyo’s Best Museums
If you are an art lover who’s always seeking art museums to visit during your stay in a foreign country, then this blog post is right here for you! As is the nature of an Art History major, during my stay at home, I go dozens of art museums around Tokyo. Among those I have been to before, I have picked up some great art museums, where Japanese art pieces are abundant and labels and texts of those pieces are available in English.
Tokyo National Museum
Although many of the art museums in Japan do not have many strong collections compared to the ones in European countries and the US, Tokyo National Museum is an exception. It has many unique-to-Japan artifacts. These include Japanese Samurai warrior’s armors and swords, which are interesting to look at—a number of intricate openwork on the guard on the swords exemplifies the idea that practicality is essential to the beauty. A number of national treasurers, including black and white Zen paintings of Sesshu and Tohaku Hasegawa, are also in the museum’s collection.
The museum also offers a free app, which allows visitors to listen to the audio guides in Japanese or English on your personal device. You can download it from App Store and can listen to it anytime.
This museum is located in Ueno Park, which is one of the big tourist places where people from around the world like to come and visit.
Ota Museum of Art
This small private museum collects Ukiyo-e exclusively. Ukiyo-e are Japanese prints that flourished during Edo Period (1603-1867) and their design influenced numerous Western post-impressionists, including Van Gogh and Degas.
When you look at Uniyo-e prints, you realize how the sceneries captured on paper look two-dimensional. Compared to typical western landscape paintings, which try to recreate the three-dimensional world on the surface of paper, Uniyo-e captures the nature in more flattened manners. In Ukiyo-e design, frequent use of strong diagonals and strong color contrasts makes the scene powerful and attractive.
The interior of this museum is also worth mentioning. The exhibition room has tatami mats so visitors can step into the room with their bare feet. If you would like to experience Japanese tatami mats, this is an easy place to go. Also, in the middle of the room, there is a place that mimics the Japanese-style garden. In that small garden, visitors can sit on the bench to take some rest.
This museum is five minutes’ walk from the famous Harajuku Station. You can easily visit this museum to take some rest from your sightseeing of the clouded streets.
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
This museum is located in a nice and quiet place just next to the Imperial Palace. The museum has a strong collection of modern and contemporary art created by local Japanese artists. If you are into paintings and sculptures, this is the place for you.
When I first visited this museum in September of 2017, I loved how this museum was trying to create an interactive experience between the visitors and art pieces. The labels and texts on each art pieces are written both in English and Japanese, and they were written in relatively easy language rather than academic. I especially loved the text explanation of Kotaro-Takamura’s statue of “Hand”– it explained the trick of making the same shape with the visitor’s own hand. The museum also had wall texts in four different languages, which gave me the impression that this museum is trying to be open to the diverse community.
I hope this blog post helps art-loving tourists like you. There are many more awesome museums in Tokyo, and I would love to share my experiences. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions and comments!