1. teamLab Borderless
    Photo: Exhibition view of Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless, 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo © teamLab
  2. National Art Center - PR shot
    国立新美術館(Photo: National Art Center, Tokyo)

13 best art museums in Tokyo

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

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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There’s an endless array of art museums in Tokyo with rotating exhibitions featuring works by prolific artists from across the globe. There’s no single neighbourhood that serves as the epicentre of art and culture in this vast and dynamic city – instead, the best museums are scattered in different corners of Tokyo, with a few hidden gems that are easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

From record-breaking attractions like teamLab Borderless to smaller eccentric institutions like the Watari-um, here’s a list of Tokyo’s most exciting and beloved art museums featuring everything from contemporary digital art to renaissance oil paintings.

RECOMMENDED: Want to know what’s on? These are the best art exhibitions in Tokyo right now

The best art museums in Tokyo

  • Art
  • Roppongi

Perched on the 53rd floor of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower is the Mori Art Museum. This sky-high art institution primarily focuses on contemporary works by prominent Asian artists including the likes of Takashi Murakami.

The museum primarily stages temporary exhibitions. However, it's actively acquiring works to build a collection, which currently consists of 400 pieces by creatives from Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, such as Ai Weiwei, Yoko Ono and the collective known as Chim↑Pom. 

For its exhibitions, Mori Art Museum features a wide range of mediums from sculpture to photography, painting to video art. The venue's spacious display rooms allow for grand, immersive installations like the room-sized labyrinths of Chiharu Shiota. 

The adjacent restaurant and café often features a playful afternoon tea and course meals themed on the museum’s latest exhibition. 

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  • Kiyosumi

You’ll recognise the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo by its monolithic architecture designed by Takahiko Yanagisawa. Opened in March 1995, the museum is known for hosting groundbreaking, innovative and unconventional works. In fact, its collection now totals approximately 5,400 pieces of Japanese and international art, ranging across a wide spectrum of mediums and genres, including fashion, architecture and design. However, the museum mainly focuses on postwar artworks, many of which date from 1945 to the present day.

Recent acquisitions include works by Arnaldo Pomodoro, Saleh Hussein and Roy Lichtenstein, which capture the beginning of innovative 20th century artistic trends.

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  • Art
  • Odaiba

Opened in the summer of 2018, Mori Epson’s teamLab Borderless in Odaiba was the world’s very first digital art museum. Rather than a collection of artworks each confined within a single frame, these colourful creations spread across entire walls and even between rooms – hence the name.

With interactive installations that change with the number of people in the space, Borderless sets itself apart from other museums around the world where crowds can put people off. Unlike the Mona Lisa’s portrait in the Louvre, Borderless’s installations only get more vibrant as more people enter the space, with flurries of butterflies and flowers spontaneously appearing in works like ‘A Whole Year per Year / Flutter of Butterflies, Ephemeral Life’. 

While Borderless’s Odaiba location will be closing in 2022, the art collective announced that the museum will be moved to a new, more central spot in Tokyo sometime in 2023. 

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  • Ueno

Set in the middle of the picturesque Ueno Park is the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum where you can catch displays of history’s most revered masterpieces stretching from Edo period (1603-1868) ukiyo-e woodblock prints to the modern works of Isamu Noguchi. 

As Japan’s first public art museum, this long-standing facility – built in 1926 – has a well established relationship with the world’s most reputable art institutions and collectors. Because of this, the Metropolitan Art Museum is where you’re most likely to come across rare works by the greats, including Van Gogh, Klimt and Monet, in the city. 

As for the permanent collection, the museum has 48 acquisitions which comprise 36 pieces of calligraphy displayed in the Collection Exhibition, and 12 sculptures, which are displayed on the grounds year-round.

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Artizon Museum
  • Art
  • Kyobashi

This eclectic museum in the heart of Kyobashi was originally established to showcase the private collection of Bridgestone founder Shojiro Ishibashi. In 2015, the museum was rebuilt and renamed the Artizon Museum to embrace a fresh new horizon of art and creativity. The museum itself spans five storeys which include a cafe and lecture hall, but the gallery spaces can be found on the top three floors. 

The private collection ranges from ancient East Asian artifacts and Heian-period (794-1185) scrolls to modern art by some of the greatest painters in recent history including Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Jackson Pollock.

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  • Aoyama

Nezu Kaichiro Sr, a businessperson whose career included being the president of Tobu Railway, had a penchant for pre-modern Japanese and East Asian art. Founded in 1940 with his private collection, the museum now houses 7,400 exhibits spanning a wide range of genres.

Several Buddhist statues and ancient bronzes from China are on permanent display. On the other hand, the seven annual temporary exhibitions feature the rest of the museum’s collection – which includes paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, metalwork, ceramics, lacquerware, wooden and bamboo craft, and textiles – on a rotation basis according to the theme. The current building, a stunning mix of traditional and modern styles, was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and opened in 2009.

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  • Art
  • Ebisu

Originally established in 1990, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (nicknamed TOP) was one of Japan’s first museums dedicated to photography as an artform. TOP’s collection consists of over 50,000 photographs spanning the dawn of photography to now. Of these works, roughly 23,700 are from Japan while about 5,700 are from overseas. 

Though the facility puts an emphasis on the works of contemporary Japanese photographers, the museum frequently invites international photographers to take part in the curated exhibitions and hosts some of the world’s biggest travelling photo exhibitions including the annual World Press Photo Contest. 

The museum itself is free for visitors to enter, but each exhibition charges a separate entry fee.

  • Art
  • Roppongi

You might be surprised to learn that powerhouse Japanese beverage maker Suntory has a mid-sized art gallery in Tokyo Midtown – and a rather nice one at that. The interior has been recently renovated with a sleek, natural-wood-framed façade supervised by Kengo Kuma. The gallery exhibits rotating collections of Japanese artworks. 

Suntory describes the focus of the museum as ‘lifestyle art’, pieces like lacquerware and ceramic plates from the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) that provide insight into the lives and pastimes of their previous owners. On Thursdays, the museum opens its sixth-floor Gencho-an tearoom for traditional tea ceremonies. For ¥1,000 (in addition to the museum’s entrance fee) visitors can partake in a traditional tea ceremony and sip a whisked brew with accompanying Japanese sweets. 

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  • Art
  • Nogizaka

Characterised by its wavy glass exterior, the National Art Center, Tokyo is one of the largest contemporary art museums in Japan, spanning across 14,000 square metres. The museum doesn’t have its own permanent collection, instead hosting the works of renowned artists from Japan and overseas, ranging from Yayoi Kusama’s iconic pumpkin sculptures to the colourful paintings of Henri Matisse.

Entry to the atrium is free, and the space boasts a café, two restaurants and an excellent gift shop – Souvenir From Tokyo – where you’ll find a delightful array of art merchandise and cleverly designed knick-knacks for a memento of your visit.

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  • Roppongi

An art space located in Tokyo Midtown, it has been directed by three Japanese masters of design, fashion designer Issey Miyake, graphic designer Taku Satoh and product designer Naoto Fukazawa. The main draws here are the exhibitions and other events including talk-shows and workshops. The large-scale steel roofing of the building was designed by architect Tadao Ando and bears his unique curved shape stretching down toward the ground, avoiding a caged-in feel and instead creating comfort.

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  • Art
  • Takebashi

Founded in 1952, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (or Momat, for short) was Japan’s first national art museum. Though it was originally housed in the former headquarters of the Nikkatsu Corporation in the Chuo Ward, the museum was moved to its current location near the grounds of the Imperial Palace in 1969. 

The museum itself – designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi – has undergone several expansion projects in the past few decades and now spans a total of 4,500 square metres, making it one of Japan’s largest art museums. Exhibits here are from the early 20th century onwards, with the museum’s extensive collection of roughly 13,000 pieces featuring both Japanese and Western-style artworks. Noteworthy features of the permanent collection include portraits by early Japanese modernist Ryusei Kishida, along with sculptures and 20th-century wartime paintings.

Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art
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  • Harajuku

This private art museum in Jingumae was designed by famed Swiss architect Mario Botta for the Watari family in 1990. The quirky building holds four exhibitions a year, featuring retrospective works from the museum’s private collection as well as new works by up-and-coming contemporary artists. 

Though the museum itself may be smaller than other institutions on this list, Watari-um distinguishes itself with a respectable permanent collection of works by art world legends such as Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.

Before you leave, be sure to swing by the basement bookshop, On Sundays, which stocks books on art, photography and architecture, as well as stationery and other items.

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  • Art
  • Ueno

Established in 1959, this Le Corbusier-designed building is Japan’s only national museum devoted to Western art. Its comprehensive selection includes the Matsukata Collection (art procured by the late Japanese industrialist, Kojiro Matsukata, which form the foundation of this museum) as well as works from the Renaissance up to the early 20th century. The museum's permanent collection is excellent, ranging from 15th-century icons to one of Monet's famous 'Water Lilies' paintings, completed in 1916. 

Note: the National Museum of Western Art is temporarily closed for maintenance until spring 2022

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