Arts & Entertainment

Your guide to Tokyo's arts scene: exhibitions, theatre performances, plays and film

Best art exhibitions in Tokyo this winter 2019/2020
Art

Best art exhibitions in Tokyo this winter 2019/2020

What to see from December until March: from traditional Japanese paintings to Renaissance masterpieces

Best Japanese movies and series with English subtitles on Netflix – updated
Film

Best Japanese movies and series with English subtitles on Netflix – updated

Binge-worthy, locally produced titles to add to your watch list

Showing now: new art posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics
News

Showing now: new art posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics

Go see them at the Museum of Contemporary Art...

The top spots to see graffiti and street art in Tokyo
Art

The top spots to see graffiti and street art in Tokyo

From back-alley walls to building facades, these outdoor spots feature the city’s best street art and graffiti

Best art galleries in Roppongi
Art

Best art galleries in Roppongi

Nightlife district Roppongi has more than just bars and clubs – it's also home to many independent art galleries

Exhibitions ending soon

The Window: A Journey of Art and Architecture through Windows
Art

The Window: A Journey of Art and Architecture through Windows

The window, posits this widely eclectic exhibition, is an object that, like art itself, may open up views of new and different worlds in everyday life. Over 100 works from 58 creators, ranging from 20th century masters to those forging new paths in the present decade, illustrate how this ubiquitous, indispensable element of almost any building inspires artists and architects alike. Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard make the presence of a window explicit in their work included here, while for Paul Klee and video art pioneer Nam June Paik it is present in abstracted form. Architecture is represented by Le Corbusier and James Stirling, among others, and photography by Wolfgang Tillmans and Ikko Narahara.

Eraser Stamp Exhibition – Reflect the Seasons
Art

Eraser Stamp Exhibition – Reflect the Seasons

When visiting Koenji, make a detour to this eraser stamp exhibition by artist Natsuko Taguchi. Her intricate work incorporates warm colours and traditional Japanese elements, and often feature scenes from the four seasons. Taguchi has her own segment at the weekly variety TV show 'Purebato' and publishes a variety of books on eraser stamp art techniques. Her most iconic works include wall art as well as designs for traditional Japanese sliding doors. We're excited about the new works she has prepared for this exhibition at Za-Koenji. 

Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e Paintings
Art

Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e Paintings

This exhibition shows original ukiyo-e paintings of Hishikawa Moronobu, who was active during the 17th century, as well as Kobayashi Kiyochika from the Meiji period...

Paintings Created as Sets
Art

Paintings Created as Sets

In East Asia, paintings were commonly created in sets, on media such as diptychs, scrolls and folding screens...

Story of a Small World: Chinese Dough Doll Exhibition
Art

Story of a Small World: Chinese Dough Doll Exhibition

Discover the art of Chinese dough dolls at the Japan-China Friendship Center Museum. Each of these miniature dolls are handcrafted from dough made with wheat and glutinous rice flour. This culinary art has lived on for over 1,000 years in China and surrounding regions, and the dolls are usually given as gifts on celebratory occasions. A typical figurine can fit on the palm of your hand, with heights ranging anywhere between 10cm and 20cm. That said, extreme miniaturised dolls aren’t uncommon as well.   

Goddess Pyuupiru
Art

Goddess Pyuupiru

Tokyo-based Pyuupiru is a contemporary and performance artist who has been active since her first solo exhibition 'Planetaria' in 2003. Her collection 'Goddess Pyuupiru' is a series of portraits she started creating in 2010. Her works often explore concepts that contrast, such as life and death, the idea of oneself versus others, and man and woman. These themes appear in her current exhibition, which portrays different 'goddesses' as the artist envisages them. The exhibition features seven new pieces in the series as well as one sculpture. This is Pyuupiru's first new exhibition in 13 years.

See more art exhibitions in Tokyo

The best ongoing exhibitions in Tokyo

The Original Image of Japan
Art

The Original Image of Japan

Taro Okamoto (1911-1996) is regarded as one of Japan’s most emblematic 20th century artists. Famed for his surrealist-influenced take on Japanese culture, his sculptures and paintings can be found not only inside museums and galleries but also dotted around Tokyo and other major cities. This exhibition tells the story of how in the early 1950s Okamoto came to an understanding of ‘Japanese-ness’ that was radically different to established notions of refinement and restraint. Chancing upon some pottery from the Jomon period (14,000-1,000 BCE), Okamoto perceived a wild vitality that he felt was the true essence of his country. This set him off on expeditions, illustrated here through photos taken by the artist himself, in search of this same spirit. In then-poverty stricken Tohoku and an Okinawa under post-war US rule, what Okamoto uncovered would manifest itself in his iconic work.

Taste of Reminiscence: Delicacies of Nature
Art

Taste of Reminiscence: Delicacies of Nature

Ayako Suwa is a renowned food artist who uses food and flavours as her signature medium of expression. In this solo – and interactive – exhibition, Suwa aims to explore our individual and collective memory through food. As such, you can expect to taste several ‘delicacies of reminiscence’ prepared by the artist, using specific utensils that also form part of the installations. You are encouraged to dig deep and reflect on the memories that the food has uncovered in you and share them with other visitors as well. There will be talks along with irregular participative performances where Suwa will take visitors on a journey through her personal memories as expressed through food.

Handcraft for the digital: Type of design from India
Art

Handcraft for the digital: Type of design from India

Admire the shapes and designs of Indian typefaces at Muji’s flagship store in Ginza. The exhibition is curated by ‘Typecraft Initiative’, a self-funded project launched in 2011 by Indian designer Ishan Khosla, who wanted to help promote Indian tribal artists and preserve Indian craftsmanship from disappearing in the waves of rapid modernisation. Since then, it has helped craftspeople expand their livelihood by applying their skills in many other fields including tattoos, embroidery, ceramics, paintings and digital graphics. You get to examine up close the intricate typefaces that were printed or carved on various materials, and even get a chance to try out some of the stamps. 

Vilhelm Hammershoi and Danish Painting of the 19th Century
Art

Vilhelm Hammershoi and Danish Painting of the 19th Century

This exhibition gathers about 40 works of the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916), who’s also known as the ‘Vermeer of Scandinavia’ thanks to his subdued colours and meditative portraits and interiors. Get to know Copenhagen’s golden era (late 19th century) through Hammershoi’s brushes.

Yasumasa Morimura: Ego Obscura, Tokyo 2020
Art

Yasumasa Morimura: Ego Obscura, Tokyo 2020

One of the last chances to enjoy an art venue that is among Tokyo’s most pleasant: the Hara Museum, which occupies a distinguished European-style former residence dating back to the 1930s, is set to close at the end of this year. Artist Yasumasa Morimura has, as this show documents, spent the past three decades using photography, film and performance to retrieve his ‘self’ from layers of accumulated national, cultural and personal history. Across work sure to resonate with the Instagram generation, for whom every selfie involves a degree of ‘performance’, Morimura shows himself in the guise of figures as diverse as Marilyn Monroe and infamous author Yukio Mishima: the latter is depicted staging his failed 1970 coup d'état just before committing ritual suicide. 

Kazuo Shiraga
Art

Kazuo Shiraga

This is the first solo Tokyo exhibition by painter Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008), a key member of Japan’s radical post-war Gutai group and whose innovative, action painting-like work is currently enjoying renewed acclaim. In the mid-1950s Shiraga devised a method of painting that involved him hanging from the ceiling on a rope, and using his feet to cover a canvas laid out on the floor below with wildly expressive splatters and strokes. As this sizeable exhibition shows, following the 1972 dissolution of the Gutai group, Shiraga continued to express himself through the dripping and oozing qualities inherent to paint itself, in the process exploring questions of spirituality and human potential.

Film

Best Japanese movies and series with English subtitles on Netflix
Film

Best Japanese movies and series with English subtitles on Netflix

Binge-worthy, locally produced titles to add to your watch list

Best anime of the Heisei era
Film

Best anime of the Heisei era

The Heisei era saw big developments in animation, evolving from hand-drawn works to cutting-edge computer graphics

Films to get you in the mood for Japanese food
Film

Films to get you in the mood for Japanese food

These delicious films allow you to visually feast on the joys of Japan’s food culture

Best arthouse and independent cinemas in Tokyo
Cinemas

Best arthouse and independent cinemas in Tokyo

Arthouse cinemas in Tokyo are a thing of beauty. Away from the commercial chains you’ll find some of the loveliest, buzziest and friendliest movie houses. The films on show are often more interesting too, with retro classics, indie gems and the odd documentary offering an alternative to Hollywood’s latest CGI fest. Here are our favourite places in town, all of them guaranteed to reignite your love of a trip to the flicks. Also see: How to watch five films for under ¥6,000

Classical & theatre

Dreamgirls
Theatre

Dreamgirls

'Dreamgirls' the Broadway musical takes it back to the '60s at Tokyu Theatre Orb with this Tony Award-winning show about a trio of young women hoping to make it big in the music industry. The three best friends, who call themselves the Dreamettes, experience extreme highs and lows as they try to navigate the cut-throat world of show business. This cast features Kadejah Oné as Effie White, Sharae Moultrie as Deena and Berland Millus as Lorelle Robinson.  This show will be performed in English with Japanese subtitles.

Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Music

Il Barbiere di Siviglia

This witty two-act opera buffa, based on the French comedy ‘The Barber of Seville’, is Rossini’s most popular work. In this frivolous story, Spanish nobleman Count Almaviva is infatuated with the sheltered Rossina, who is already claimed by her guardian, the old and lecherous Dr Bartolo. Almaviva, determined to win Rossina, proceeds to assume a ludicrous series of disguises to be near her. While the original takes place in the 18th century, this production by Josef E. Köpplinger is revamped with a kitsch 1960’s setting. Note: Ticket sales start from 10am Oct 19. 

Così fan tutte
Music

Così fan tutte

This classical tale about seduction and infidelity is a comic opera composed by none other than Mozart. The story opens with two officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, boasting about their faithful fiancées. A cynical bachelor, Don Alfonso, scoffs at their confidence and tells them that their fiancées, like all women, would be unfaithful if they were given the opportunity. Ferrando and Guglielmo make a bet with Alfonso and devise a plan to disguise themselves and attempt to seduce each other’s fiancées to prove him wrong. This opera is conducted by the masterful Paolo Olmi and Eleonora Burratto, Anna Goryachova and Simone Alberghini, who are regular performers at the Zürich Opera House. Note: Ticket sales begin 10am Nov 10. 

Blade Runner in Concert
Music

Blade Runner in Concert

Revisit Ridley Scott’s cult classic with the accompaniment of a live music ensemble in this special screening of 'Blade Runner'. The original film, starring Harrison Ford, was released in 1982 but set in the imagined future of 2019. The science fiction film follows former LA police officer Rick Deackrd (Ford) as he hunts down a fugitive group of bioengineered humanoids known as ‘replicas’. We may still be many years away from flying cars but a modernised dystopian with deadly humanoids is probably best enjoyed through the experience of cinema rather than in reality anyway.

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Guide to Japanese calligraphy art
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Guide to the Mori Building Digital Art Museum Epson teamLab Borderless
Art

Guide to the Mori Building Digital Art Museum Epson teamLab Borderless

What to expect at the highly anticipated teamLab museum of cutting edge, interactive digital art

Tokyo National Museum
Museums

Tokyo National Museum

If you have just one day to devote to museum-going in Tokyo and are interested in Japanese art and artefacts, this is the place to visit. Japan’s oldest and largest museum houses over 110,000 items. Past the ornate gateway, there’s a wide courtyard and pond surrounded by three main buildings. Directly in front is the Honkan, or main gallery, dating from 1938, which displays the permanent collection of Japanese arts and antiquities. The 25 rooms regularly rotate their exhibitions of paintings, ceramics, swords, kimonos, sculptures and the like. The Toyokan building to the right features five floors of artworks from other parts of Asia; the Hyokeikan, the 1909 European-style building to the left, is currently closed to visitors. Behind the Hyokeikan is the Gallery of Horyu-ji Treasures, which houses some of Japanese Buddhism’s most important and ancient artefacts, from the seventh-century Horyu-ji temple in Nara. The Heiseikan, behind the Honkan, holds three to four temporary exhibitions of Japanese and Asian art each year. There are also a couple of restaurants in the complex, and a good gift shop.

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Art

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

This is an alternative-history MoMA, one consisting mostly of Japanese art from the turn of the 20th century onwards. Noteworthy features of the permanent collection are portraits by early Japanese modernist Ryusei Kishida and wartime paintings. The 1969 building, designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi (father of architect Yoshio Taniguchi) was renovated in 2001. Its location next to the moat and walls of the Imperial Palace makes it a prime stop for viewing springtime cherry blossoms and autumn foliage. Nearby is the Crafts Gallery, an impressive 1910 European-style brick building, once the base for the legions of guards who patrolled the Imperial Palace.

Mori Art Museum
Art

Mori Art Museum

The exhibitions are world-class, focused mainly on contemporary culture, but the secrets of the Mori Art Museum’s success are location (part of the phenomenally popular Roppongi Hills), location (on the 52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Tower, offering spectacular views) and location (within a two-floor ‘experience’ that includes a bar, cafe, shop and panoramic observation deck). One ticket allows access to all areas, and the late opening hours maximise accessibility. Exhibitions are deliberately varied, with past offerings including Bill Viola’s video art, a survey of the Middle Eastern art world and the periodic Roppongi Crossing group shows for Japanese artists. The vista from Tokyo City View isn’t quite 360°, and it’s expensive compared to the free Tokyo Metropolitan Government building observatory, but the views are arguably better, especially at night with a drink in your hand from Mado Lounge. If you don't mind paying an extra ¥500, you take a short elevator ride to the rooftop Sky Deck, and take in an even better – not to mention rather breezier – vista.

The National Art Center
Art

The National Art Center

The National Art Center was opened on January 21, 2007, boasting the largest exhibition space of any museum in Japan. Unlike most conventional domestic art galleries, the National Art Center does not have its own permanent collection, instead choosing to hold special exhibitions only. Entry to the Center’s atrium is free, and the space boasts a café, two restaurants and an excellent shop, Souvenir From Tokyo.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Art

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

Designed by Maekawa Kunio, this brick-faced art museum was largely constructed underground to remain unobtrusive, with limited success. Temporary shows in the main hall feature everything from traditional Japanese art to art nouveau.