Japan‘s thriving art scene has been the catalyst for a museum boom throughout the country in recent decades. With Tokyo’s cultural buzz being comparable to the metropolises of New York, London and Paris, Japan is an enthralling destination for art lovers. Discover 10 of the most significant art museums in Japan, which offer a diverse display of world-class exhibitions and collections.
Mori Art Museum
The highest art museum in the world, Mori Art Museum is an iconic art institute located at the top of a 54 story tower. Focusing on the concept that ‘each of the world’s diverse cultures must be accorded equal importance’, the museum’s exhibitions are dedicated to contemporary art from all around the world. Mori Art Museum also organizes ‘MAM Projects’ which are committed to supporting young talented practitioners.
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Opened in 1952, the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT) has continuously grown throughout its history, requiring various updates to the building. The last of these renovations occurred in 1999, enlarging the exhibition galleries and library, allowing further public access, and also creating space for a restaurant and museum shop to be added. Renowned for its Japanese collections from the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the museum also presents an impressive display of both Japanese and international 20th century works. MOMAT has further expanded with the Crafts Gallery and National Film Center, again establishing its significance to the Japanese art scene.
National Museum of Western Art
Just like the renowned international art cities of New York, Paris and London, Tokyo contains an overwhelming number of iconic masterpieces. The National Museum of Western Art (NMWA) opened in 1959 and its collection was founded on the Impressionist paintings and Rodin sculptures which are a part of the Matsukata Collection. Building upon this throughout the years, as well as loaning works from international private collections and museums, NMWA’s displayed exhibitions focus on the Renaissance to the early 20th century, allowing both locals and travelers to gaze at some of history’s finest works.
Suntory Museum of Art
A small but mighty institution, Suntory Museum of Art is set in a Japanese Modernist building designed by internationally acclaimed architect Kengo Kuma, and is regarded as an important organization in the Japanese art industry. The museum is distinct in holding no permanent exhibition, and many of its displayed works center on exploring art in everyday life, and finding connections between ‘ancient art to modern art, Eastern art to Western art, across the boundaries of time and place and culture.’
Tokyo National Museum
Founded in 1872, Tokyo Nation Museum is the oldest and one of the most significant national museums. Dedicated to collecting and displaying historic artworks and antiquities from Japan and Asia, visits to this venue are essential for travelers interested in the long history behind Japanese art. The museum is a pivotal institution for research and scholarly work, and organizes a number of educational programs for people of all ages.
Kyoto National Museum
Located in the old capital of Japan, Kyoto, this museum is deemed just as noteworthy as the museums in Tokyo. Kyoto National Museum was founded in 1897 and its strength lies in its Japanese and Asian art from the pre-modern period. Their online museum dictionary is also an insightful tool which offers enlightening information on the history of the held works.
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
Originally opened in 1963, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (MoMAK), exhibits exemplary Japanese and international contemporary works, with a particular focus on the Kansai region, allowing visitors an unrivaled insight into modern perspectives of Japan’s old capital. Holding an impressive collection, as well as fascinating temporary exhibitions, the Collection Gallery rotates the displayed works continually throughout the year, inviting re-explorations of their featured works.
The Hakone Open-Air Museum
The seasons play a pivotal part in Japanese culture, and The Hakone Open-Air Museum explores this relationship between nature and art through their outdoor displays. Presenting a vast range of modern sculptures in a massive 70,000 square meter outdoor area, internationally renowned works from Rodin, Bourdelle, Miro and Moore can be discovered here. Additionally, a collection of Picasso works, as well as one of the largest collections of English sculptor Henry Moore’s pieces make this museum an artistic haven.
Nara National Museum
Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 AD, and its beautiful temples and sites attract culture-hungry tourists throughout the year. The Nara National Museum is surrounded by some of these beautiful structures, such as the Tōdai-ji Temple, the Kōfuku-ji Temple, and the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, and the museum holds an eminent collection of artworks and artifacts that reveal the history of Buddhist art. Focusing on the research of Buddhist art, history and culture, guests can also attend lectures, temporary and permanent exhibitions, as well as the inspiring Buddhist Art Library.
Seto Inland Sea
Benesse Art Site Naoshima
In recent years the islands that sit in the Seto Inland Sea have become renowned as artistic hot spots because of the Setouchi Triennale; however it was Benesse Holdings, Inc and Fukutake Foundation that created this art boom. Working with various artists, architects and venues to create exciting art experiences throughout the islands of Naoshima, Teshima, and Inujima, museums have also been founded on these isles, such as the outstanding Chichu Art Museum. Connecting cutting edge contemporary art, the surrounding awe-inspiring nature and the rich history and culture of the area, the Benesse Art Site Naoshima sits as the heart of these artistic oases, and allows visitors to stay at the Benesse House Hotel while being surrounded by exemplary contemporary art.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.