If you are planning to visit Japan, you must be wondering what places you should explore. Great cities like Kyoto, Tokyo, Hakone, and many others, are home to breathtaking museums and galleries. It may be hard to list every one of them. But we shortened it down to the 50 best, unique and most unusual museums in Japan.
However, these are just a few of the huge number of museums to visit in Japan. Every one of them is unique and worth visiting. To find out which ones peak your interest, let’s check out the rest of them.
50 Best Museums In Japan
I know choosing a museum to visit with so many options out there is no joke. So, help yourself with this list of the 50 best museums in Japan:
If you were looking for Japan’s largest museum, you have been looking for this one. The Otsuka Museum of Art is the home of a massive collection of life-size replicas. It has Western art treasures covering antiquity to the 20th century.
The Otsuka Museum of Art, located in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, was established in 1998 and is one of Japan’s largest exhibition museum display facilities.
It includes nearly a thousand full-size ceramic replicas of significant works of art, including the Sistine Chapel, and was established by Otsuka Pharmaceutical to commemorate its 75th anniversary. Before being created statues and replicas, are transfer-printed from photos.
The goal is to let Japanese citizens who are unable to go overseas to see these iconic pieces in a near-exact reproduction. Mr Art, a robot, delivers hour-long gallery talks.
So, you will find many breathtaking antiques including the works of Michelangelo, Goya, El Greco, Monet, and even Picasso!
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum commemorates the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. It recounts the most devastating war tragedy in Japanese history. Most of the time, visitors go there to learn detailed information and historical information of the war.
The Peace Memorial Exhibition gathers and displays personal belongings left by casualties, as well as pictures and other artifacts that portray the tragedy of the atomic bomb, as well as exhibitions that explain Hiroshima before and after the bombing. Each of the things on exhibit represents a real person’s loss, sorrow, or suffering.
Hiroshima’s greatest aim, now that it has recovered from the war, is for the establishment of a truly peaceful international society.
The museum also serves as a reminder that peace is not something to take for granted. Its location is in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which is also a dedication to world peace.
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa houses various displays of art collections. However, the building’s unique structure and modern interior design are what sets it apart from other museums.
It features captivating artworks by many famous contemporary artists. Not just from Japan, but all around the world. The museum also holds temporary exhibitions of new art pieces from up-and-coming artists regularly.
Despite its location and exterior, tourists sometimes miss the museum because its looks like that of being a temple or shrine. On a visit to the Kofukuji National Treasure Museum its one not to be overlooked. It houses a large exhibit of Buddhist art, including one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist six-arms, the three-faced Ashura Statue.
Therefore, you can expect to find many other Buddhist works of art here. Visitors also see pieces that belong to the Kofukuji temple from the Edo, Heian, Momoyama, Nara, and many other periods in Japanese history.
This place gets its fame for its collection of famous paintings, sculptures, and many other artworks of legendary artists. Most importantly, tourists love this spot because of its beautiful location in Hakone’s valleys and mountains.
The Hakone Open-Air Museum has everything an art enthusiast might want. What you should be looking for is the part of exhibits featuring a number of the lifeworks of Picasso. Such as sculptures, paintings, and murals, which is the focus of the show.
The MAM is located in the popular neighborhood of Roppongi. The Mori Art Museum gives tourists a variety of reasons to visit. One of which is rather than displaying a permanent collection, it rotates exhibitions to highlight mainly contemporary Japanese and Asian artists.
Not to mention, it also features a research center, restaurant, screening room. The MAM also provides a viewing deck that offers the beautiful scenery of Tokyo city. However, due to its exhibits, admission prices may vary depending on the time of the year.
If you are a passionate to refresh your knowledge and understanding of World War II, you must visit the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Here, you will find the displays of the devastation in Nagasaki following the second atomic bomb impact.
There are documentaries often screened detailing the mass devastation for visitors to get a personal perspective of the experience. As a bonus, you can explore the nearby Nagasaki Peace Park and see the Peace Statue in all its glory.
It is time for all you Japanese ‘anime’ lovers because this is a must-see. For anyone with even the slightest interest in Japan’s rich cinematic history, the Studio Ghibli Museum is not worth missing.
The Ghibli museum honors Japan’s most famous and influential animation studio, Studio Ghibli. It houses exhibitions for children, fine arts, technical arts. The museum also illustrates all the famous filmmaking processes while also making the whole experience enjoyable for visitors of all ages.
The Railway Museum has an outstanding collection of vintage and historic train cars. You can expect to explore diesel and steam, as well as the retired bullet train, Shinkansen. It also showcases antique passenger and industrial vehicles.
The museum recounts and is dedicated to Japan’s railway history. It uses innovative simulators to explain how trains work and demonstrates how the railway has changed through the generations.
One of Tokyo’s greatest highlights is the Nezu Museum. Over 7000 works of art from all over Japan and East Asia call this museum their home!
Paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, and textiles representing Buddhist culture are part of the permanent collection. Visitors can sit in the café and restaurant surrounding a peaceful 17,000m² Japanese garden.
The Tokyo National Museum is not just the largest, but also the oldest national museum in Japan. Naturally, it will appear on every ranking of the country’s greatest sites to visit. It is located in Ueno Park.
The museum holds one of Japan’s largest collections of national treasures and valuable cultural artifacts. There are also interesting exhibitions held here from time to time.
The National Art Center Tokyo (NACT) is not the traditional art museum you will visit in Japan. In fact, it is one of the largest in Japan.
You will be lucky enough to find special events here as it holds many kinds of exhibitions annually. Guests can also enjoy the magnificent view through the glass façade and take in all the lush, green trees planted around the area.
For all car enthusiasts, buckle up your seatbelts because this one is going to be a ride. The Toyota Automobile Museum, perhaps the most famous Japanese automobile museum, presents the culture and evolution of vehicles from all over the world.
The museum takes pleasure in the fact that it has carefully maintained and preserved all of the cars on display throughout the years. In fact, most of them are still drivable to this day.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum is devoted to Japan’s historic Edo period and the rise of the country’s capital city. This museum has a year-round five to six special exhibitions. Not to mention, the permanent display of buildings, replicas, models, and antiques.
Unlike many Japanese museums, the facility offers not just English information, but also multiple foreign language guides to tourists.
The gorgeous green garden at this museum is its star attraction. Not only is it one of the best in Japan, but also home to an amazing exhibition of Japanese tableware and paintings.
Additionally, the Adachi Museum of Art houses a huge collection of paintings by the one and only Yokoyama Taikan.
The Battle of Okinawa is commemorated at the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum. It also acts as a memorial to those who died or suffered because of the war. It is also a reminder for everyone to cherish every moment of peace.
The museum is located in the Okinawa Peace Park, which already is a memorial park honoring both Japanese and American soldiers of the Battle of Okinawa.
Visitors come to the Abashiri Prison Museum to experience a day in the life of a prisoner. It features a dozen historic prison buildings and structures, including the main jail tower and its five wings. The law courts, a bathhouse, and a punishment room are also available for viewing.
While it may not immediately stand out as a must-see, locals strongly suggest visiting the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum at least once. One needs to fully explore it to appreciate what is on display.
Some of Japan’s oldest and most interesting specimens of the art of bonsai call this museum their home. Around 12 trees are on display here, with some to be over 1000 years old!
From steam locomotives to the shinkansen, the Kyoto Railway Museum is another haven that recounts the Japanese history of Railways. Luckily, you can head straight here from the Kyoto Station as it is within walking distance.
Tourists and visitors mostly come here to witness its rather huge set of locomotive collections. You will not find any other museums with such a feature.
The Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake of 1995 is commemorated at the Earthquake Memorial Museum. It offers activities and documentary films to teach people about earthquakes and natural disaster events.
To add to that, you can also watch the tragic event unfold on a big screen with realistic photographs of the earthquake’s devastation.
The Miho Museum includes structures of unique designs that easily blend with the natural environment. Not to mention, the museum grips your attention with its combination of glass, steel, and warm stone. This goes hand in hand with the awesome scenery that is a feast to your eyes.
The museum’s collection includes artifacts from ancient civilizations such as the Romans, Egyptians, and other Asian cultures.
One of Japan’s most fascinating contemporary art museums is the Teshima Art Museum. The modest concrete building, which stands among terraced rice fields, delights visitors’ sensations with the dance of water drops on a concrete surface.
Furthermore, the museum’s humble setting on a rural island enhances its rustic appeal.
The magnificent Nara National Museum, located in Nara Park, is a highly educational, informative museum of Buddhist Statues. For those who want to get the whole spiritual experience, this is the one to visit.
You can find a permanent collection of Japanese Buddhist art and religious artifacts in the museum. Every autumn, it holds yearly exhibitions of artifacts from the great Todaiji Temple.
This is the place where you can learn about the history of the automobile industry. The Toyota Museum of Industry and Technology teaches you about the evolution of cars. From the gas-powered cars in the late 1800s to the ones in the 20th century, by looking at the actual models themselves.
Western automobiles are on show on the 2nd floor, while Japanese cars are displayed on the third. There are a total of 120 models for you to view closely. Other varieties of past technology are on display as well.
Documents and related articles of the kamikaze pilots of the Imperial Army are on display at the Chiran Peace Museum For Kamikaze Pilots. These pilots attacked by crashing their bomb-rigged aircraft into the enemy ships.
This happened the most in points of war like the Battle of Okinawa. The records, belongings, and photos of the deceased kamikaze pilots from those days were left behind are found here.
The Honda Collection Hall is three stories high, with areas dedicated to both racing and street motorcycles, racing cars, and automobile parts. There’s also a reading area with a broad selection of books, films, and photographs, all related to Honda vehicles.
As a bonus, you can get yourself some limited-edition goodies from the museum shop that you will not find anywhere else in the world.
If you have ever stayed at a Japanese hotel or any washroom, you have likely used this company’s toilet products. In Japan, Toto is the leading brand of toilet products.
Their museum is located near the company’s Kitakyushu headquarters. Like most visitors, you too will have fun finding out about the rise of this company and its products.
The Yamatane Museum of Art is another museum in Tokyo that displays a private collection of modern Japanese art. Traditional works of art such as ‘nihonga’, ‘ukiyo-e’, and textiles are among the greats on display. These works are also regarded as of national cultural importance, as well as those created by modern artists of today.
If you are a fan of beer, you should pay a visit to the Sapporo Beer Museum. It is worth seeing just for the famous Sapporo Beer served there, and the delicious restaurants beside it.
The museum itself covers the history of beer in Japan as well as the brewing process. However, there are only a few explanations for you English speakers.
Around 100 excellent Venetian Glass objects from the 15th to 19th century can be found at the Venetian Glass Museum. In the garden, your eyes will be delighted with the magnificent view of the entire Owakudani Valley. Seasonal exhibits such as Japanese silver grass, cherry blossoms, and crystal glass Christmas trees are very popular among tourists.
Located in Atami, Shizouka, The MOA Museum of Art is a two-hour drive from Tokyo. The museum, which opened in 1982, preserves over 3,500 traditional Japanese arts. Among those, there are three registered national treasures.
It is mostly renowned for its exhibit, a two-fold painted screen by the world-famous artist Ogata Korin.
This one is located in a popular mountain resort town in Karuizawa. The Hiroshi Senju Museum highlights the work of the iconic artist, who made a name for himself through his paintings of tumbling waterfalls and foggy cliffs.
His work, which he calls ‘nihonga,’ is inspired by the ideas of traditional Japanese and Chinese painting.
The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park provide details on Japan’s high-speed rail development throughout the years. It has a number of real-life trains on display for you to see. You can see the historic steam locomotives, world-record-breaking shinkansen, and the most up-to-date magnetic levitating trains (maglev).
Visitors can also try driving a train or enjoy the duties of a train conductor for fun.
Around 14,000 ukiyo-e artworks safely reside in the Ota Memorial Museum of Art. The collection displayed once belonged to Seizo Ota V. He dedicated his life to recovering many of the ukiyo-e artworks that were taken out of Japan during the Meiji Period.
The Chichu Art Museum houses works of James Turrel, Monet, Walter De Maria, along many others. Not only is it blessed with jaw-opening views of the Seto Inland Sea, but also has a lovely garden.
Moreover, you can relish the pretty blooms, including Monet’s water lilies. The man’s actual works are on display inside, so it is a perfect introduction.
If you are a photographer yourself, the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP) will be perfect for you. In fact, it houses over 33,000 works in three galleries, displaying the work of both Japanese and international artists!
Subjects, periods, and themes captured in exhibitions range from budding contemporary photographers to historically significant collections.
A lovely beech of forest surrounds the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone. Tsuneshi Suzaki, the late-owner of the Pola cosmetics company, has a private collection on display here.
Not just that, it also has works by Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, and Renoir, along with many other contemporary paintings and sculptures.
The great Katsushika Hokusai, Japan’s most famous artist, is honored in the Sumida Hokusai Museum. He lived from the mid-18th through the mid-19th centuries in Japan’s historic Edo period. His fabled work mainly describes the Edo era.
With a range of languages on the display panels, images, and an easy-to-understand film presentation, the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum narrates the history of the disease. The museum serves as a reminder that the horrific environmental disaster caused by methylmercury should never happen again.
The Upopoy Ainu National Museum is the first national museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Ainu. It is for the indigenous people of northern Japan.
The site is near a lakeside park with some recreated traditional Ainu cottages. There are several facilities where tourists can learn about the Ainu Culture.
The Nagano Prefectural Art Museum is only a short distance from Nagano’s landmark Zenko-Ji Temple.
Due to the stunning view of the city, the underlying theme of the museum is man and nature. Moreover, you can find painting, photography, sculptures, animation, and video are among the works on display.
This incredibly designed, bilingual scientific museum in Tokyo is a must-see if you are a science fanatic. It features jaw-dropping exhibits on robotics (including Asimo), information technology, space exploration, biology, and even environmental issues.
Visitors and tourists can learn more about the sacred Ise Shrines’ periodic reconstruction at the Sengukan Museum. The museum, which is located at the entrance to the Outer Shrine (Geku), provides close-up views of the mystical inner shrine hall.
A fourth of a 1:1 duplicate of the shrine’s main building is among the museum’s noteworthy displays. It also has a stunning exhibit of 1:20 replicas of the main sanctuary.
The Fukui Dinosaur Museum is regarded as one of the best dinosaur museums in the whole world. The eye-opening place dedicated to dinosaur study and education has more than 40 dinosaur skeletons on exhibit, each with a full English description.
Visitors can learn about the origins of life on Earth as well as the evolution of dinosaurs into birds. Furthermore, you can even pick up and feel the genuine fossils in a hands-on zone.
Now, if you know your jewelry, you have to visit this place. There are more than 1,500 Lalique artifacts. It also includes over 200 pieces of invaluable jewelry that rest in the Lalique Museum. However, make sure you time your visit right because the permanent exhibition changes depending on the theme and season.
The Inujima Seirensho Art Museum elegantly blends an art gallery within the ruins of a copper refinery.Visitors are delighted with an exhibition of fascinating tunnel mirrors on display, among many more unique artworks.
Do all of the creepy creatures in the world fascinate you? Well, the Meguro Parasitological Museum is the place for you to go. It is one of the weirdest museums in Japan. Its location is in Meguro, which is the central district of Tokyo.
This museum is truly a treat to the eyes of science lovers. Parasites and organisms are the only focus of the whole museum. Provided that, you will enjoy detailed research and explanations of their existence.
Large sculptures created by professional artists around the world are on display at the Sand Museum. Its location is near the Tottori Sand Dunes, which provides a rare quasi-desert experience in Japan.
For those heading to Mount Fuji and planning some quality time around the shores of Kawaguchi-ko, try visiting this place while you are on your way. The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum can be a good shout to check out.
The stunning museum buildings and nearby gardens add to its attractiveness. Most of the time, tourists come back from Mount Fuji only to see this site at least once.
Last but not least, this is another fantastic museum dedicated to the eruptions of Mount Unzen in the 1990s. This museum uses interactive exhibits and movies to teach visitors about volcanoes.
It also teaches how they affect human lives who live near one. But, the highlight of the exhibition is the erupt simulator that will help you experience such an event.
The choices are practically endless. Whether you are in the mood for car models, railways, historic war events, contemporary art, or whatever you are into, there is a museum for everything in Japan. There is no doubt that you will be left satisfied with the ones listed above.