The best ongoing exhibitions in Tokyo
Foujita: A Retrospective – Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of his Death
In commemoration of world-famous illustrator Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968), the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is hosting a grand retrospective encompassing his entire career. You’ll find a large variety of artworks, cutting across genres including landscapes, portraits and nudes. There’s also a substantial amount of pieces on loan from fellow art museums around the globe that will be on display for the first time in Japan. As a leading artist of the Ecole de Paris, Foujita spent half of his life in France and gained worldwide recognition with his ‘milky-white’ nudes – which, of course, are on display as well during this event.
Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise
This sprawling exhibition examines the creation and impact of the classic sci-fi anime film ‘Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise’. Released in 1987, ‘Royal Space Force’ was produced by Gainax, who would go on to make the hugely influential television series ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’. At this exhibition, you’ll be able to see the production process of the now cult classic, with the secrets of its stunning visuals and groundbreaking production methods revealed through a large collection of shooting scripts, behind the scene photographs and more.
Better known as Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada’s new composition, Audio Architecture, is dissected by a variety of artists at this epic exhibition. Directed by Yugo Nakamura, who has worked with Oyamada in the past, nine artists have created their own interpretation of Audio Architecture in videographic works, which span anything from film, animation and dance to graphic design, illustration, programming and media design. Throughout it all, Oyamada’s piece will be played on loop creating an immersive experience.
Bento – Design for Eating, Gathering and Communicating
The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is examining how humans interact with one other through the lense of that most Japanese of lunches: the bento. The interactive exhibition centres on the charms of carrying a bento around, and will have participatory workshops led by leading artists in the bento and food world. Expect photographs detailing the social fabric of bento, a documentary on bento made by middle schoolers, unique bento boxes and more.
You May Dream
Looking for an interactive exhibition where you can take Instagram-worthy shots as well? Check out ‘You May Dream’, which features five different themed rooms as well as other photogenic sets for you to experience and interest with. For example, the ‘Bewildering Bento’ room: here you get to hold up oversized rice sushi and pretend you’re inside a traditional Japanese lunch box. The ‘Swimming Matsuri Pool’ room, on the other hand, is where you’ll become one of the floating toys waiting to be scooped up – this is inspired by a childhood game often found at Japanese summer festivals. These are just some of the many interactive attractions at this exhibition, which also offer a make-up area, gift shops and more. Make your reservations now as tickets are limited, and go crazy with your photos.
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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
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
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
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
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.