Tokyo National Museum
Photo: Alexirina27000/DreamstimeTokyo National Museum

Some of Tokyo's best museums are free on November 3 Culture Day

This Friday is a public holiday in Japan, and the day comes with one extra perk

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen

Three-day weekends are lovely on their own, but this Friday’s national holiday on November 3 comes with one extra perk. Established in 1945, this day is earmarked as Japan’s Culture Day to celebrate and appreciate the arts. It's a time when events, exhibitions and museum visits become a communal affair, with friends and families spending quality time together revelling in the rich cultural tapestry of the nation.

As such, in the spirit of this holiday, many museums and local galleries in Tokyo – and across Japan – have graciously waived their entry fees on this day. In this guide, we highlight the most prominent institutions participating in this complimentary admission day, along with the exhibitions you won’t want to miss.

MOMAT advertorial top image
Photo: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

With a history dating back to 1952, MOMAT boasts one of Japan’s most extensive modern art displays, presenting around 200 works each term from its impressive collection of over 13,000 pieces.

MOMAT usually charges a general admission fee of ¥500 for its permanent collection, but on Culture Day, it'll be free. 

The National Museum of Western Art

Established in 1959, Japan's National Museum of Western Art has a vast permanent collection spanning pre-18th-century works to early 20th-century French paintings. There are works by the great masters, including Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso, tracing Western art's evolution from the Renaissance to modern expression.

Entry to the permanent collection is free on Culture Day.

Tokyo National Museum 

Japan’s oldest and largest museum houses over 110,000 works, including Japanese arts and antiquities as well as artworks from around Asia. Special exhibitions such as Tadanori Yokoo will require a separate fee, but the regular exhibitions are free on this day. These thematic exhibitions currently include a showcase of masterpieces of Chinese art, bronze mirrors of Mt Haguro, and Buddhist paintings with Yamato-e landscapes. 

Printing Museum

Based in Toppan Printing's headquarters in Bunkyo, the Printing Museum showcases the evolution of printing from ancient texts to digital advancements. In addition to vintage posters, fliers and books, the museum also features a library and VR theatre.  

National Museum of Nature and Science
Photo: National Museum of Nature and Science

National Museum of Nature and Science

There are two main exhibitions to explore at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno Park. First, you have the Japan Gallery, where you can explore Japan's origins, flora, fauna and ancient inhabitants.

Next, the Global Gallery dazzles with fossils and dinosaur skeletons, and showcases Japanese technological advancements since the Edo period. Engaging exhibits and a well-stocked souvenir shop make it a delightful experience for all ages

Katsushika City Museum Planetarium

This planetarium presents a 'digital universe’ based on historical planetary data. Expand your astronomical knowledge at the museum, or discover the 90-year history of Katsushika ward through a unique photo exhibition.

Institute for Nature Study

This central Tokyo forest, designated for scientific research in 1949, hosts an array of specimens spanning plants, birds and insects. A small museum at the park's entrance displays a map illustrating the evolution of Tokyo's green spaces since 1677, alongside an exhibition on diverse bird sounds.

Photo: 国立映画アーカイブ
Photo: National Film Archive of Japan

National Film Archive of Japan

Discover the captivating world of Japanese cinema at the National Film Archive. Ongoing right now is a special exhibition celebrating the centenary of Tsukioka Yumeji, a celebrated actress who transitioned from the Takarazuka Revue to become a top movie star.

Alongside her husband, renowned film director Inoue Umeji, they formed one of Japan's most iconic cinematic couples. This exhibition gathers an extensive collection of their works, personal artefacts and documents, tracing their profound impact on the film industry.

Photo: © Theo JansenAnimaris Plaudens Vela

Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art

Outside Tokyo, you can enjoy a free exhibition of Theo Jansen’s ‘Strandbeests’ at the Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art. The Dutch artist’s colossal creatures are crafted from PVC pipes and fabric sails. Powered by wind, these intricate, autonomous beings represent a harmony of engineering, biology and artistic vision.

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