Arts & Entertainment

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

Evolution of Japanese art: from modern to contemporary art
Art

Evolution of Japanese art: from modern to contemporary art

The creative explosion of Japanese art in the 20th century happened against a backdrop of a nation throwing off the cloak of isolation and embracing the world...

Best art museums in Tokyo
Art

Best art museums in Tokyo

Our picks for the best art museums in Tokyo, from traditional Japanese paintings to Renaissance classics and contemporary works

Best public art sculptures in Tokyo
Art

Best public art sculptures in Tokyo

Besides Tokyo's art museums and galleries, the city also boasts many art pieces that are free to see out in the open

Free museum days at Tokyo museums
Museums

Free museum days at Tokyo museums

Here's a complete guide to the best free museum days and discount deals across Tokyo

Amazing manhole covers in Tokyo
Things to do

Amazing manhole covers in Tokyo

Embrace your inner 'drainspotter': To discover some of the most unique sights in Tokyo, all you have to do is look down

Exhibitions ending soon

Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles
Art

Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles

Based in Berlin, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota is known for creating beautifully complex installations entangled in a web of red or black yarn, stretching across the exhibition space...

Julian Opie
Art

Julian Opie

A British artist best known for his minimalist visuals consisting mainly of dots and lines, Julian Opie presents his first large-scale solo exhibition in 11 years at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery. The exhibition will showcase Opie's recent works including films of people walking down streets and three-dimentional landscapes. Several paintings and sculptures will also be making their public debut at this exhibition. 

Julia Chiang: Pump and Bump
Art

Julia Chiang: Pump and Bump

Brooklyn-based artist Julia Chiang is staging a solo exhibition at contemporary art gallery Nanzuka in Shibuya, featuring some of her latest works from a series called 'Pump and Bump'. The show, Chiang's second outing at the gallery since 2013, includes abstract paintings and colourful ceramics portraying living creatures and energy flow. Her art seeks to illustrate the balance that exists through laws of nature.

The Matsukata Collection: A One-Hundred-Year Odyssey
Art

The Matsukata Collection: A One-Hundred-Year Odyssey

Kojiro Matsukata (1866-1950) was a successful business man who devoted his life and fortune to collecting Western art, ranging from medieval panel paintings and tapestries to works by Monet, Gauguin and Van Gogh, as well as modern British paintings and sculptures by Rodin. Matsukata hoped to build a national museum in Japan to house these treasures, but his dream never came to fruition due to the Showa financial crisis of 1927. The collection was dispersed for storage in Japan, London and Paris. In celebration of The National Museum of Western Art’s 60th anniversary, over 160 artworks from the Matsukata Collection will be put on display, along with a variety of historical materials.

Archives: Bauhaus Exhibition
Things to do

Archives: Bauhaus Exhibition

The gallery at Muji Ginza now hosts a new exhibition featuring works from the former German art school Bauhaus, established in Weimar after WWI. Before closing in 1933, the school was active for 14 years between the two world wars; today, it still holds a strong influence on designers from around the world. The exhibition focuses on works by the school's outstanding talents, including the experimental photographs and lighting equipment of Mariana Brunt and the works of Wilhelm Wagenfeld.

Shiseido Art Egg
Art

Shiseido Art Egg

Explore the works of new and upcoming local artists at ‘Shiseido Art Egg’, a free exhibition hosted by the Japanese cosmetic and skincare brand. Out of the 250-plus submissions, only three young artists – Fumi Imamura, Kiyono Kobayashi and Kaori Endo – were chosen to display their art, all of which incorporate expressions of new values and aesthetics.

See more art exhibitions in Tokyo

The best ongoing exhibitions in Tokyo

Christian Boltanski: Animitas II
Art

Christian Boltanski: Animitas II

Leading French contemporary artist Christian Bolanski has worked extensively with Japanese themes in the past...

Shimada Tadashi: Wild Moments; The World of Beautiful Birds
Art

Shimada Tadashi: Wild Moments; The World of Beautiful Birds

Shimada Tadashi is known for his photographs of wildlife, mainly birds in Oceania and New Guinea...

Samurai Mania!
Art

Samurai Mania!

Time Out in association with Tokyo National Museum This comprehensive exhibition at Tokyo National Museum focuses on one of the most celebrated Japanese icons – the samurai. There will be a variety of head to toe armour from different eras on display, some are actual specimens from the past while others are modern reproductions. The main function of the armour is to protect these elite warriors in battle; however, it also denotes rank amongst the samurai generals. More importantly, these samurai armour are an exquisite work of art that showcases fine craftsmanship. As this is a family show, you can expect kid-friendly description displays. Don’t miss the interactive area on the first floor, where you get to touch an armour and try on a helmet. On Friday and Saturday From July 19 to August 31, you’ll also get to try on a replica armour for ¥1,000. Held from 11am to 4.30pm (registration from 10.50am), this experience is limited to 22 participants per day on a first come, first served basis. There will also be a special session on Sunday August 4 just for children under 18.

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Modern Woman: Finnish Women Artists from the Collection of Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery
Art

Modern Woman: Finnish Women Artists from the Collection of Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery

The National Museum of Western Art is hosting an exhibition with works from the collection of Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery...

Open Space 2019
Art

Open Space 2019

'Alternative Views' takes a look at how our ideas and perceptions of the world are influenced by the alternative world views propagating through media and technology...

Mino Tea Wares: Kiseto, Setoguro, Shino and Oribe
Art

Mino Tea Wares: Kiseto, Setoguro, Shino and Oribe

There is something exciting about taking malleable clay and transforming it into beautiful works of art. The history of Japanese pottery started more than 1,300 years ago, with traces of earthenware going even further back to the prehistoric Jomon period. This exhibition at the Suntory Museum of Art, however, will take you back 500 years to Mino, the birthplace of some of Japan’s greatest ceramic wares. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1603), many craftsmen fled from war-torn areas of the Owari province and settled down in Mino in Gifu prefecture. Mino eventually became a ceramics centre as new kilns were being built in a time when new technology and artistic expressions inspired by the tea ceremony were developing. This exhibition, in celebration of Suntory Foundation for the Arts’ 50th anniversary, explores not only the history of Mino tea wares but also the secrets behind their unique beauty.

Film

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

Best film events and festivals in Tokyo
Things to do

Best film events and festivals in Tokyo

The best alternative movie screenings, events and festivals in and around the city

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 anime on Netflix
Film

Best anime on Netflix

Want to explore the amazing world of Japanese anime? Put these Netflix shows on your binge-watch list now

Classical & theatre

The Royal Opera: Faust
Theatre

The Royal Opera: Faust

The Royal Opera returns to Japan for the first time since 2015. The company will be performing all five acts of this classic French opera about a disillusioned philosopher...

Ballett am Rhein - Swan Lake
Dance

Ballett am Rhein - Swan Lake

German ballet company Ballett am Rhein brings an all new interpretation of Swan Lake to Tokyo. This is a contemporary take on the classic ballet accompanied by the timeless score of Tchaikovsky...

The Royal Opera: Otello
Theatre

The Royal Opera: Otello

This opera based on Shakespeare’s play Othello, by Giuseppe Verdi, tells the tale of a powerful army general...

Disney on Classic
Music

Disney on Classic

Conductor Richard Carsey returns for the tour of Disney on Classic with an all-new programme. Disney fanatics will be mesmerised by this concert combining animation...

Popular features and interviews

Guide to Japanese calligraphy art
Art

Guide to Japanese calligraphy art

More than just black ink on white paper, calligraphy art is the aesthetic embodiment of Zen in Japanese culture

Guide to booking popular museums in Tokyo
Art

Guide to booking popular museums in Tokyo

How to get tickets for Tokyo's most hyped museums such as the Ghibli Museum, Yayoi Kusama Museum and teamLab Borderless

Guide to anime and manga culture in Tokyo
Art

Guide to anime and manga culture in Tokyo

Interested in anime and manga culture? Here's your guide to Tokyo's hidden otaku gems and attractions

The art of sento
Art

The art of sento

Tokyo’s prettiest public baths

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

Tokyo's most unusual museums
Museums

Tokyo's most unusual museums

From parasites and love dolls to tattoos, these are some of Tokyo's quirkiest and most bizarre museums. Warning: not for the faint-hearted!

What's on at...

teamLab Planets Tokyo
Art

teamLab Planets Tokyo

Tokyo Bay islands could best be termed 'teamLab islands' by now – hot off the heels of the much-hyped teamLab Borderless Museum on Odaiba, this temporary museum right next to Shin-Toyosu Station offers a more intimate interaction with the collective's signature digital art. Back in 2016, teamLab collaborated with e-commerce business DMM.com to create the very popular DMM.Planets exhibition; this museum is in essence an extension of that.  There are a mere seven installations, but they are spread out across a full 10,000sqm, giving them lots and lots of space each. All of them offer a more sensorial and immersive experience compared to the teamLab Borderless Museum nearby. We won't spoil all the secrets, but for starters, no shoes are allowed inside the museum, and you'll be wading through knee-deep water in some places. We'd highly recommend wearing something above the knee (although skirts may not be the best idea due to the amount of floor mirrors); the museum offers a wrap-around if needed. Even better, they are open until 1am, one of the few museums in Tokyo to be open that late.  Our only caveat remains the price tag: ¥3,200 for adults (and a whopping ¥6,000 for priority access), which is the same price as teamLab Borderless, which has 50-odd pieces to ogle at rather than seven. But hey, if you need more Insta likes... Book your tickets through their official website.  Opens July 7, 2018, through autumn 2020

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.