Art & Culture

The best art exhibitions in Tokyo, plus features and interviews – it's your ultimate guide to the city's art scene

The best museum hacks in Tokyo
Art

The best museum hacks in Tokyo

From reduced ticket prices to free entries, here are the best ways to hack Tokyo museums and save money on exhibitions

Floor-by-floor guide to the Yayoi Kusama Museum
Art

Floor-by-floor guide to the Yayoi Kusama Museum

What to expect when visiting this highly anticipated museum full of pumpkins and polka dots

Essential Tokyo exhibitions for winter
Art

Essential Tokyo exhibitions for winter

Enter one very damp installation, admire aristocratic Edo culture, and find out how to protect yourself from the cold at winter’s best art events

Kentaro Imai: the man with grand designs for communal bathing
Art

Kentaro Imai: the man with grand designs for communal bathing

We meet the sento architect who is pouring new life into Tokyo’s bathhouse culture

Interview: Norihito Ishii
Art

Interview: Norihito Ishii

Discussing business and the importance of the blank space with a butoh dancer

The best ongoing exhibitions in Tokyo

The Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions 2018
Art

The Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions 2018

Also known as 'Yebizo', this annual festival highlights art and imagery from across the globe. Its tenth edition is centred around the theme ‘Mapping the Invisible’, meaning that the presented artworks, screenings, performances and talks will all be referencing ‘that which can’t be seen’. There’s plenty of domestic and international talent to admire at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, but definitely spare a minute for Dutch-Brazilian, internet-centric artist Rafaël Rozendaal’s series ‘Into Time’, which involves hologram-like works that let you see changing colours and shapes when standing in front of them. Meanwhile, the museum's ground-floor hall is where to catch film screenings. From experimental fare and documentaries to animation and modern art pieces, there will be plenty to choose from, including films from Myanmar’s Wathann Film Festival. Note that there are no programmes on February 13 and 19.

Yokoyama Taikan – The Elite of the Tokyo Art World
Art

Yokoyama Taikan – The Elite of the Tokyo Art World

Regarded as one of Japan’s great modern painters, Taikan Yokoyama (1868-1958) was born at the beginning of the Meiji restoration and lived through 89 years of change. Having studied under Tenshin Okakura, he boldly incorporated influences from Western art, clearing the way for a new stream of Nihonga painting. Commemorating 150 years since Yokoyama's birth, the Yamatane Museum – founded by the painter's associate Taneji Yamazaki – pulls out all the greatest hits from its vast collection, displaying around 40 of the modernist pioneer's finest works. Anyone wearing a kimono gets a ¥200 discount on the ticket price.

Surrealism – Paintings, Sculptures and Photographs
Art

Surrealism – Paintings, Sculptures and Photographs

We're not quite sure why, but the Yokohama Museum of Art has been collecting Surrealist works – photos, paintings, collages, you name it – for almost 35 years now. Highlights from that trippy trove are now put on display throughout winter, giving adventurous art fans the opportunity to admire pieces by the likes of René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst and Man Ray. Three of the museum's largest exhibition rooms have been filled for the occasion, so you'll be a looking at a real bonanza of mind-bending artistry.

Greenland by Fujiko & Ukichiro Nakaya
Art

Greenland by Fujiko & Ukichiro Nakaya

The daughter of Ukichiro Nakaya, the physicist credited with manufacturing the first artificial snowflakes, Fujiko Nakaya has been playing with the elements since the 1970 World Expo in Osaka. That was when she enshrouded the Pepsi Pavilion in mist, becoming the first artist to create a sculptural fog environment. Fujiko has displayed these ultra-immersive works around the world ever since, most recently hitting up the Tate Modern in London, and now reveals her latest creation at Maison Hermès. 'Glacial Fogfall' is obviously the highlight of 'Greenland', named after the place where Ukichiro moved to do research in his later years, but you can also look forward to environmental observations by both father and daughter.

Ryuichi Sakamoto with Shiro Takatani | Installation Music 2 Is your time
Art

Ryuichi Sakamoto with Shiro Takatani | Installation Music 2 Is your time

Famed musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and 'Dumb Type' artist Shiro Takatani have teamed up for this musical installation at Hatsudai's NTT Intercommunication Centre. in 2017, Sakamoto released his first album in eight years, named 'Async', and then did a 'installation music' piece, where he incorporated songs and melodies that appeared on that album. 'Installation Music 2' is a continuation of the same theme, but this time it features the work and input of Shiro Takatani as well. 

Yoshihiko Ueda: Forest 1989-2017
Art

Yoshihiko Ueda: Forest 1989-2017

Perhaps it's the lack of motion that appeals to him, but master of portraits Yoshihiko Ueda is also an eager observer of trees. Taken over a 30-year period, 'Quinault', which documents woods on Native American land, and the twin collections 'Materia' and 'M.River', both shot on Yakushima, saw him dive deep into the mystical beauty and majesty of forests. This exhibition consists mainly of new shots taken during 2017, when Ueda revisited Washington State, Yakushima and the Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara to capture ancient trees from a fresh perspective.

See more art exhibitions in Tokyo

Upcoming exhibitions

Mikiya Takimoto: Crossover
Art

Mikiya Takimoto: Crossover

Looking back at the diverse body of work produced by photographer and cinematographer Mikiya Takimoto, the Laforet Museum displays a range of both commercial pieces and art during this spring special. Best known for his contributions to 2013 Cannes Jury Prize winner Like Father, like Son and 2015's Our Little Sister, both directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, Takimoto is also the man behind several recognisable ad images familiar to most Tokyoites. Peek into his creative process in Harajuku from late February onwards.

Happy New Latvia
Art

Happy New Latvia

Latvia, forming the centre of the three Baltic states, has become a popular travel destination in recent years. It's especially known for its capital Riga’s charming townscape, nicknamed 'the pearl of the Baltic Sea'. At this exhibition focused on Latvian crafts and designs, you can dittle over hand-knitted mitten and baskets made from natural materials and other traditional handcrafts, plus porcelain made between the 1950s and 1980s.  Film and Latvian lovers alike shouldn't miss the February 24th screening of the popular documentary 'Ruch and Norie (Rucs un Norie)' by Latvian movie director Ināra Kolmane, which details an emotional encounter between the Japanese student Norie Tsurata and Suiti women Ruch (¥2000, reservation required). 

Kan'ei Elegance: Edo-Period Court Culture and Enshu, Ninsei, and Tan'yu
Art

Kan'ei Elegance: Edo-Period Court Culture and Enshu, Ninsei, and Tan'yu

Zooming in on the Kan'ei era (1624-44), a period that marked the beginning of the long 'Edo peace' after centuries of violent struggle, the Suntory Museum's 'Kan'ei Elegance' highlights how appreciation of the traditional arts and classic culture underwent a revival centred on Kyoto. Waka poetry and the performing arts returned to vogue, with miyabi (refinement, grace) becoming the word to live by in the ancient capital. In Edo, meanwhile, a more straightforward aesthetic developed among the samurai classes. Centring on the works of tea ceremony master Kobori Enshu, potter Nonomura Ninsei and painter Kano Tan'yu, the exhibition explores how these twin streams of high culture came to symbolise a new age and build the foundations for artistic development later in the Edo era.

Art in Park Hotel Tokyo
Art

Art in Park Hotel Tokyo

Known as the artsiest hotel in Tokyo, the Park Hotel in Shiodome has been letting artists decorate its rooms since 2012. It also runs this unique art fair, which is now returning for its third edition and takes over most of the guest rooms on floors 26 and 27. The 42 exhibiting galleries include local favourites such as Humanité and MEM, as well as representatives from as far afield as Korea and Taiwan. You'll find paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations, all displayed on the walls of rooms where you could be staying one day.

Popular features and interviews

Interview: Komanosuke Takemoto
Art

Interview: Komanosuke Takemoto

We meet the ‘living national treasure’, who has dedicated her life to the art of gidayu-bushi

State of the art
Art

State of the art

Exploring Roppongi and Tennozu, two of Tokyo's artsiest neighbourhoods

Interview: Kazutaro Nakamura
Art

Interview: Kazutaro Nakamura

The prince of kabuki is leading Japan’s traditional performing arts into an exciting new age

Interview: Takashi Murakami
Art

Interview: Takashi Murakami

The legendary artist on his creative process, his favourite haunt Nakano, and on why his art isn't understood in Japan

What's on at...

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 Photographic Art Museum
Art

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

Occupying a four-floor building in one corner of Yebisu Garden Place, Tokyo’s premier photography showcase (formerly known as the Metropolitan Museum of Photography) was re-opened in August 2016 after extensive renovations. It boasts a large permanent collection and brings in leading lights of the photography world for regular star-studded shows. The small Images & Technology Gallery in the basement presents a multimedia history of optics, featuring tricks such as morphing, and the occasional media art exhibition.

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.

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.

Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo
Art

Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo

When it was originally built, the Mitsubishi Ichigokan was the first western-style office building in the Marunouchi area. Completed in 1894, the building was designed by British architect Josiah Conder on an invitation from the Japanese government, still newly formed after Japan’s opening to the West. At the time it bustled with activity, containing, among other things, the banking division of the Mitsubishi Company. By 1968, however, it had become dilapidated and was demolished. In 2010, after more than 40 years of silence, the Mitsubishi Ichigokan was reborn on the same site as a major new museum, rebuilt according to Conder’s original plans.