Museums
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Note: Museums and galleries that are usually closed on Mondays will be open if Monday is a national holiday, but will be closed the following day.

Museum picks

National Museum of Nature and Science - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
This is an outstanding natural history museum, with beautiful, curiosity-inspiring exhibits exploring the animal and plant kingdoms and the prehistoric world. It's also a real bargain - general admission to the vast permanent exhibition areas is...
Food and Agriculture Museum - Museum: Setagaya-ku
[Open May-Nov 10am-5pm; Dec-Apr 10am-4pm (last entry 30 min. before closing). Closed Mondays.]
If you're interested in taxidermied roosters, cactus plants, sake paraphernalia, ancient farm tools, modern architecture or lemurs, then this quirky little museum has something for you. Run by Tokyo University of Agriculture, the Food and...
Intermediatheque - Museum: Marunouchi
[Open 11am-6pm (Thu, Fri 8pm; entry until 30 minutes before closing). Closed Mondays.]
The Marunouchi district is teeming with smart new shopping-dining-office complexes, but Kitte ("postage stamp"), brought to you by the Japanese Postal Service, is the only one with its own natural-history museum. Or is it a contemporary art gallery?...

Trains, ships and cars

Fire Museum - Museum: Yotsuya 3-chome
[Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
Earthquakes. Landslides. Typhoons. Faulty wiring. Japan has its share of danger. But fear not: the fire department is here to help. To learn exactly how they help, visit Tokyo's Fire Museum, where the history of Fire and Rescue in Japan - from...
Hara Model Railway Museum - Museum: Yokohama Sta.
[Open 11am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed Tuesdays.]
Two gigantic room-size layouts are the main draw at this impressive model-railway attraction. The larger diorama is European in character, with urban streets, town squares and outdoor restaurants, as well as a couple of mountain resorts connected...
History Garage - Museum: Aomi
[Open 11am-9pm daily.]
If you're even the least bit interested in vintage autos and racecars, this automotive museum is well worth checking out. Walk-through exhibit areas are fashioned to resemble the streets of an Italian village in the 1960s, a small town in 1950s...
Keio Rail Land - Amusement park: Hino-shi
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (last entry 5pm). Closed Wednesdays.]
This inexpensive mini-theme park is an entertaining destination for young train fans who still have leftover energy after a visit to Tama Zoo, located just across the road. It's a very hands-on attraction, with several different train simulators...
Metro Museum - Museum: Edogawa-ku
[Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
Recently refurbished, the Metro Museum focuses on the Tokyo subway system, with several hands-on driving simulators, a big model train layout (with shows four times a day), and exhibits of subway cars through the ages, tunneling equipment and...
Mitsubishi Minato Mirai Industrial Museum - Museum: Yokohama Minato-mirai
[Open 10am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Fans of rockets, ships and big machinery in general will find a lot to see in this two-story technology museum run by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Exhibits focus in particular on the realms of aerospace, deep-sea exploration and shipping. There's...
Railway Museum - Museum: Omiya
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30pm). Closed Tuesdays.]
Train enthusiasts shouldn't miss this impressive, expensively produced railway-history museum located about thirty minutes north of Shinjuku in Saitama Prefecture. The showpiece here is a collection of thirty-five real train cars and full-size...

History and culture

Amuse Museum - Museum: Asakusa
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Established in 2009, this rather specialized ethnological museum focuses on unique textiles, graphics and product designs with a traditional Japanese aesthetic. One highlight is Chuzaburo Tanaka's massive collection of "boro" patchwork-style...
Ancient Orient Museum - Museum: Ikebukuro
[Open 10am-5pm (entry until 4:30pm) daily.]
The exhibitions at this small museum focus on archaeological finds and fine arts from the Ancient Near East (Egypt, Mesopotamia) and Central Asia (the Silk Road). Standing in the entranceway is a replica of the stele of the Code of Hammurabi from...
Basho Museum - Museum: Koto-ku
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Located on the banks of the Sumida River, this tiny museum is dedicated to the life and works of the poet Matsuo Basho, who elevated the haiku form to a major literary genre. Basho lived in a thatched cottage somewhere in the nearby area from 1680...
Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum - Museum: Nishi-Shinjuku
[Open 10am-4:30pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Sundays.]
Under the auspices of the Bunka Fashion College, this tiny, specialized museum has collected some 20,000 historical costumes and related crafts from around Japan and around the world, and holds four exhibitions a year organized around specific...
Calligraphy Museum - Museum: Uguisudani
[Open 9:30am-4:30pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Mondays.]
Although it's called a Calligraphy museum, the collection here focuses mainly on the early history of the Chinese (and later Japanese) written language through its use in inscriptions on ancient Chinese jade, bronze and ceramic objects. There are...
Drum Museum - Museum: Asakusa
[Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays.]
By far the noisiest museum we've been to in Tokyo, Asakusa's Drum Museum is also one of the most interactive. Hundreds of percussion instruments of all shapes and sizes are on display here, many of them waiting to be banged on by visitors - just...
Edo-Tokyo Museum - Museum: Ryogoku
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (enter by 5pm; Saturdays -7:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
This excellent museum is devoted to the history of Tokyo, formerly known as Edo. Entering the museum via escalator from the third-floor plaza below is an inspiring experience - the massive structure seems to hover several stories over the plaza like...
Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum - Museum: Koganei
[Open April-Sept 9:30am-5:30pm; Oct-March 9:30am-4:30pm (last entry 30 min earlier). Closed Mondays (or Tues if Mon is natl holiday).]
This massive open-air museum features preserved and reconstructed examples of Tokyo's Edo-era architecture. Besides merchants' mansions and crowded shops, there's also a mausoleum and a bathhouse. The visitor's center was once a pavilion of the...
Fuefukigawa Fruit Park - Museum: Yamanashi-ken
[Open 9am-5pm daily.]
The main attraction here is the fascinating Fruit Museum, where you can explore the history of fruit through the centuries, with particular emphasis on the role of fruit in the history of Yamanashi Prefecture. This sounds like a must-see destination...
Fukagawa Edo Museum - Museum: Kiyosumi-Shirakawa
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed 2nd and 4th Mondays.]
Looking almost like a film set for a historical drama, the main exhibit here is a life-size reconstruction of an early nineteenth-century neighorhood on the banks of the Sumida River, filled with shops, warehouses, private houses, and even a canal...
Museum of History and Folklore - Museum: Omiya
[Open 9am-4:30pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Mondays.]
Exhibits at this rather large museum feature archeological finds from the area, including a pit dwelling from the Jomon period. There are also collections of swords and armor, pottery and metalware, and famous 16th-century scroll paintings depicting...
Nakagawa Funabansho Museum - Museum: Koto-ku
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
[NOTE: The museum will reopen from December 11, 2016.] The pre-industrial history of Koto-ku in eastern Tokyo is intimately tied to its rivers and canals, and the top half of this small, rather specialized museum focuses on the theme of water...
Newspark - Museum: Yokohama Nihon-Odori
[Open 11am-5pm (last entry 4:30pm) daily.]
Officially known as the Japan Newspaper Museum, this beautifully designed modern facility is both entertaining and informative. Three floors of exhibits cover the history of the newspaper industry in Japan as well as the nuts and bolts of print...
Paper Museum - Museum: Oji
[Open 10am-5pm (enter by 4:30). Closed Mondays.]
If you're spending the day in the nearby park but get hit by a sudden downpour, this specialty museum is a decent way to kill ten or fifteen minutes. The rather limited exhibit area covers topics such as the invention of paper, the crafting of...
Postal Museum - Museum: Oshiage
[Open 10am-5:30pm (last entry 5pm) daily.]
Stamp collectors and stamp enthusiasts will be excited to explore the centerpiece of this specialty museum - an impressively huge collection of more than 330,000 postage stamps from around the world, carefully arranged in hundreds of vertical...
Printing Museum - Museum: Edogawabashi
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Run by Toppan Printing Company, this medium-size museum explores "printing culture," showing off interesting examples of both printed word and image. You can admire beautifully illustrated books from the 18th and 19th centuries, and see the...
Samurai Museum - Museum: Shinjuku Kabukicho
[Open 11am-9pm (enter by 8:30) daily.]
Although this specialized museum is rather compact in size, the very detailed English-language tour makes up for it, and is highly recommended. The tour brings Japan's samurai history to life as you're introduced to room after room filled with rare...
Shinjuku Historical Museum - Museum: Akebonobashi
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (enter by 5pm). Closed Mondays.]
Highlights at this charming local museum include life-size reconstructions of an Edo-era storehouse, residential interiors, and half a streetcar. There's also a large scale-model diorama representing the early post town of "Naito Shinjuku" - rows...
Shitamachi Museum - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9:30am-4:30pm. Closed Mondays.]
To get a real hands-on grasp of what life must have been like back in the dark days before instant noodles, the Shitamachi Museum is the place to go. Shitamachi ("low city") is the name for the low-lying parts of town that Tokyo's hoi polloi once...
Showa-kan - Museum: Kudanshita
[Open 10am-5:30pm (enter by 5pm). Closed Mondays.]
Life in Japan during and after World War II - the period from 1935 to 1955 to be exact - is the focus at this small historical museum. Completely renovated in January 2013, the museum offers a unique glimpse into everyday life during this turbulent...
Taimeiken Kite Museum - Museum: Nihonbashi
[Open 11am-5pm. Closed Sundays.]
A visit to Nihonbashi's Taimeiken Kite Museum feels a bit like stepping into the attic of an eccentric old man. The room is a tangled heap of color and string, requiring you to duck under and step around the hundreds of kites that couldn't fit...
Tobacco and Salt Museum - Museum: Oshiage
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Run by cigarette conglomerate Japan Tobacco, this oddly specialized museum focuses on the history of tobacco use around the world and the history of the Japanese salt industry. Graphic design historians can draw inspiration from a huge wall display...
Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum - Museum: Ochanomizu
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed 4th Monday.]
This historical museum run by the Tokyo Bureau of Waterworks has surprisingly interesting exhibitions on the history of the public water supply in the capital, spread out over two spacious floors. Upstairs you can get a glimpse into daily life...
Yokohama Museum of Eurasian Cultures - Museum: Yokohama Nihon-Odori
[Open 9:30am-5pm (last entry 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
The permanent collection of this compact museum includes ancient pottery, coins, and ethnic costumes; there are also frequent special exhibits lasting two to four weeks.

Pop culture

Tokyo Toy Museum - Museum: Yotsuya 3-chome
[Open 10am-4pm (enter by 3:30pm). Closed Thursdays.]
Especially popular with younger children but suitable for all ages, the museum exhibits thousands of toys from around the world, with plenty of hands-on activity for enthusiastic visitors. The musuem occupies two floors of a former elementary...
Ghibli Museum - Museum: Mitaka
[Open 10am-6pm. Closed Tuesdays.]
When Hayao Miyazaki's spellbinding Spirited Away won the Oscar for best animated feature in 2003, it only confirmed to the world what Japan has known for decades: that the work of Miyazaki and his fellow artists at Studio Ghibli ranks alongside that...
Advertising Museum of Tokyo (ADMT) - Museum: Shiodome
[Open Tue-Fri 11am-6:30pm; Sat, Sun 11am-4:30pm (enter by 30 min before closing). Closed Mondays.]
The Advertising Museum of Tokyo (ADMT) has a very cool entrance in shiny black metal and glass on the B1 floor of the Dentsu building in Shiodome. Walk in, pass the museum shop (which has a couple of cute postcards), and then take a left down the...
Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum - Museum: Suidobashi
[Open Mar-Sep 10am-6pm; Oct-Feb 10am-5pm (enter by 30 min before closing). Closed Mondays.]
Hardcore fans of Japanese baseball can view room after room of baseball memorabilia - uniforms of famous players, old balls, significant bats, important gloves, and miscellaneous trading cards and trophies. Equipment dating back to 1875 is on...
Cupnoodles Museum - Museum: Yokohama Minato-mirai
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5pm). Closed Tuesdays.]
If you love instant ramen and want to learn much, much more about the ubiquitous snack and its inventor, Momofuku Ando, you've come to the right place. Walk around inside a replica of the original shed where Ando first created instant ramen back in...
Museum of Tin Toys - Museum: Yokohama Motomachi
[Open 9:30am-6pm (weekends -7pm) daily.]
In the early twentieth century Japan exported huge numbers of tin-plate toys to countries around the world, and this charming little musuem traces that history, displaying some 3,000 antique toys made between the 1890s and the 1960s. Shelf after...
Museum of Yebisu Beer - Museum: Ebisu
[Open 11am-7pm. Closed Mondays.]
Devoted to the proud history of the Yebisu beer brand, this recently renovated facility is built on the site of Tokyo's original Sapporo Brewery. It includes a spacious restaurant, a smaller exhibition area, a theater, and a well-stocked gift shop....
Suginami Animation Museum - Museum: Nishi-Ogikubo
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30). Closed Mondays.]
Cartoon fans can learn about the history of Japanese animation, try their hand at using animation software and browse through a massive library of DVDs and comics at this free museum. The museum's attached theater boasts a 150-inch screen and...

Science and technology

Abiko City Museum of Birds - Museum: Chiba
[Open 9:30am-4:30pm. Closed Mondays.]
Located on the north shore of Teganuma Lake, around 45 minutes from central Tokyo, the museum focuses on the avian wildlife of the lake as well as the world of birds in general. After a visit to the museum you can stroll along the lakeshore trail...
Chiba Institute of Technology - Attraction: Oshiage
[Open 10:30am-6pm daily.]
Wondering what Japanese robots are up to these days? Find out at the Tokyo Skytree campus of Chiba University of Technology, which is actually just a couple of exhibition spaces located upstairs from the Skytree's shopping-mall complex. One area...
ICC (Inter Communication Center) - Attraction: Hatsudai
[Open noon-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
ICC explores the interface between electronic technology and the arts with varying degrees of success. Some of the installations here seem more like cool toys than groundbreaking art, but there's always some fun stuff to look at and play with.
Meguro Parasitological Museum - Museum: Meguro
[Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
Forget the usual superlatives for Tokyo - the highest concentration of pachinko balls in the world, the greatest number of geographically challenged taxi drivers anywhere, etc. - what really makes me want to punch the air in civic pride is knowing...
Miraikan - Museum: Aomi
[Open 10am-5pm (enter by 4:30). Closed Tuesdays.]
There is more than enough to keep you (or any children you happen to bring along) busy for a whole day in this beautifully housed and expertly presented museum. The personal cinemas in the library section alone have more than 600 science videos....
Panasonic Center - Showroom: Ariake
[Open 10am-6pm (last entry 5pm). Closed Mondays.]
The RiSuPia portion of the Panasonic Center is one of the best science museums we've seen in Tokyo, with free admission for visitors under 18. (It's Y500 for adults.) Almost all the exhibits are set up as hands-on activities and interactive games,...
Science Museum - Museum: Takebashi
[Open 9:30am-4:50pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Wednesdays.]
Aimed primarily at younger visitors, the focus here is on basic science and technology, with lots of hands-on exhibits, although many of them look like they were put together a few decades ago. Driving simulators in the Waku Eco Motor Land section...
Sony ExploraScience - Museum: Daiba
[Open 11am-7pm (enter by 6:30pm) daily.]
Sony's contribution to the cause of popular-science education offers a number of hands-on exhibits focusing on light, sound and sensory perception. There's also a small planetarium (with a show in Japanese), and of course a showroom displaying the...
Suzuhiro Kamaboko Museum - Museum: Odawara
[Open 10am-5pm daily.]
Traditional kamaboko fish cakes are the unlikely, yet logical, subject of this specialized museum run by a company that makes fish cakes. Most people seem to be here for the 50-minute, hands-on classes in fish-cake production (in Japanese; Y1500),...
Water Science Museum - Museum: Ariake
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30). Closed Mondays.]
H2O from A to Z. Everything you ever wanted to know about water. Small and quiet, but it's free and fun enough to justify popping in if you are nearby. As with most museums in Japan, considerable thought and money has obviously gone into the...