The Japanese love their museums. Whether it’s the snowy highlands of Hokkaido, the paddy-filled pastures of Kyushu, the imperial stronghold of Kyoto or the neon metropolis of Tokyo, you can count on a range of exhibits and attractions to keep you occupied and entertained. There’s a museum for seemingly everything over there, and they come complete with tomes of leaflets, pamphlets, and guides for you to take home and study. Naturally, Tokyo is the museum capital of Japan, and if you’re planning a jaunt over to the East, there’s a few in the capital you really shouldn’t miss.
Of course, the vibrant museum scene is just one aspect of Tokyo’s diverse and varied cultural life. There’s a lot to pack in when it comes to the Japanese capital, from traditional onsens (natural hot springs) to cat cafés and everything in between.
Log on to BUCKiTDREAM to get a sense of Tokyo life, and get inspired by the photos and blogs of other travelers who have ventured over there. Once you’re suitably fired up, keep your BUCKiTDREAM planner handy as we take you through four epic museums you simply must visit on your bucket dream trip to Tokyo!
Edo-Tokyo Museum Before Tokyo was Tokyo, it was Edo, the seat of power for the formidable Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868. The Edo-Tokyo museum transports you back in time to this feudal era and allows you to imagine the capital from a very different viewpoint.
Back then, it wasn’t even the formal capital: Kyoto took that honor. But the museum does a great job of making you understand why Edo consolidated power and gradually became the hub of Japanese life (which it remains to this day). The museum covers every aspect of Edo life, from agriculture and transport to construction and politics. Through a mix of miniature and life-size models, many scenes from various eras are recreated. But it’s not just feudal-orientated either; the museum traces Tokyo’s lineage all the way from samurai to WWII to present day.
The Edo-Tokyo Museum is located in the Sumida Ward of Tokyo. It’s open every day except Monday, and it conveniently provides English tour guides for its non-Japanese speaking visitors.
Address: 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-Ku, Tokyo 130-0015
Mori Art Museum The Mori Art Museum has been a staple of the Tokyo art scene for many years. It was founded by building tycoon Minoru Mori in 2003 and quickly rose to prominence as one of the most diverse and cutting-edge galleries in the city, hosting exhibitions by many renowned Japanese artists, such as Aida Makoto and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Instead of maintaining a permanent collection, the museum features a revolving exhibition policy focused on many different aspects of contemporary art. Located on the 53rd floor of the attractive Roppongi Hills complex (which is also worth a visit), the Mori Art Museum is the number one place in Tokyo to head if you’re interested in modern art or want a breathtaking view of the city.
Address: Japan, 〒106-6108 Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi, 6 Chome−１０−１
Samurai Museum One of the most iconic symbols of Japan, the samurai has captured the imagination of people around the globe for generations. Whether it’s their steely courage, their devotion to duty, or their intimidating armor and terrifying swords, the samurai is a tried and tested icon. What better place to explore the history of these enigmatic soldiers than at the Samurai Museum in Shinjuku.
Intimate yet expansive, the museum is spread over two floors and features incredible displays of armor, weapons, and calligraphy from the feudal era. For an extra fee, there’s even an opportunity to get dressed up in a remarkable suit of armor and have your picture taken.
Address: Japan, 〒160-0021 Tokyo, 新宿区Kabukicho, 2−25−6 永和第6ビル
Ghibli Museum Japan’s equivalent to America’s Walt Disney is Hayao Miyazaki, who created many beloved films that became smash hits all over the world. His work, and the work of his animation studio, Ghibli, are showcased in all their endearing glory at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. This imaginative wonderland opened its doors in 2001 and has been delighting visitors ever since, with a host of exhibits and attractions based on Ghibli’s much-loved films.
Thrilling and beautifully designed, this museum provides fun for Ghibli fans of any age and visiting it will be one of the most memorable days you’ll have in Tokyo. Be warned though – the museum is exceptionally popular, so it’s best to book tickets well in advance to assure you’ll make it through the doors.
Address: Japan, 〒181-0013 Tokyo, Mitaka, Shimorenjaku, 1 Chome−1-83
These four examples merely scratch the surface of Tokyo’s vast array of fascinating day trips. Whatever your hobbies or interests, there’s something for everyone to be found in the Land of the Rising Sun. After visiting one of these epic museums, you can check out The Best Themed Cafes and Restaurants in Tokyo or The Definitive Guide to the Best Theme Parks in Japan for some more ideas on how to get the most out of that bucket list trip to Japan!