Traditional culture and crafts
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Traditional picks

Nezu Museum - Art museum: Omotesando
[Open 10am-5pm (enter until 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Pre-modern art from Japan, China, and other Asian countries is the focus of the collection here, with some 7000 items including painting and sculpture, calligraphy, ceramics and lacquerware. The stunning building was designed by architect Kengo...
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...
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...
Ota Memorial Museum of Art - Art museum: Harajuku
[Open 10:30am-5:30pm. Closed Mondays.]
The museum holds a collection of 12,000 woodblock prints, and the selection on display changes monthly. Note that the museum is often closed for a few days a month while they change the exhibitions.
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...

Crafts

Aki-Oka - Shopping complex: Akihabara
[Open 11am-7pm. Closed Wednesdays.]
Officially known as "2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan," this is a complex of galleries, boutiques and workshops for artisans of both traditional and modern crafts. Lined up under the JR railroad tracks are some two dozen shops selling (and often making...
Bingoya - Retail: Wakamatsu-Kawada
[Open 10am-7pm. Closed Mondays.]
The main draw at this long-running folk craft store is probably their extensive selection of pottery - dishes, bowls and other tableware in various styles and price ranges - as well as a smaller selection of bamboo and lacquerware for the table. ...
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...
Fukui Minami Aoyama 291 - Retail: Omotesando
[Open 11am-9pm daily.]
Unlike most prefectural antenna shops, this spacious, attractively appointed store specializes in local handicrafts more than food and drink, and it's well worth visiting just for its pottery selection. You'll also find beautiful glassware, paper...
Japan Folk Crafts Museum - Museum: Komaba-Todaimae
[Open 10am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
If you are looking for a tranquil relic of old Tokyo, the Japan Folk Crafts Museum (Nihon Mingei-kan) is for you. This tiny but enchanting museum, hidden away in peaceful Komaba, displays folk crafts (mingei) from all over Japan. The founder,...
Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square - Retail: Aoyama 1-chome
[Open 11am-7pm daily.]
The Traditional Craft Center in Aoyama offers handy one-stop shopping for a range of Japanese crafts. It's all here and it's all for sale - from pottery, lacquerware and carving knives for your everyday needs to more esoteric washi (paper...
Japanese Sword Museum - Museum: Hatsudai
[Open 10am-4:30pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Mondays.]
This small, somewhat out-of-the-way museum will mostly be of interest to Japanese sword enthusiasts and collectors, with extensive English-language captioning for foreign visitors. The facility is run by the Society for Preservation of Japanese Art...
Kuroeya - Retail: Nihonbashi
[Open 9am-5pm. Closed weekends.]
Gorgeous soup and salad bowls, bento boxes, trays and other items for the table are sold at this lacquerware specialty shop. In addition to traditional styles they also offer modern interpretations of the classics, including lovely silver-colored...
Origami Kaikan - Retail: Ochanomizu
[Open 9:30am-6pm. Closed Sundays.]
A combination retail store, gallery space and educational facility devoted to the Japanese art of paper folding. After being inspired by assorted origami works on the gallery floor you can see how origami paper is dyed and painted in the...
Rin - Retail: Ochanomizu
[Open 11am-8pm (Sun -6pm) daily.]
Feeling a bit like a modern-art museum gift shop, Rin offers a well-curated collection of design-conscious goods from around Japan, with an emphasis on traditional craftsmen with a modern aesthetic sensibility. They've put together a good selection...
Sumida Machidokoro - Retail: Oshiage
[Open 10am-9pm daily.]
Showcasing traditional and modern crafts local to the Sumida-ku area (where Tokyo Skytree is located), this attractive shop sells glassware, traditional food items, chopsticks and bowls, knives and scissors, and goods made from wood, leather and...

History and arts

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...
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...
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...
Maach Ecute - Shopping complex: Akihabara
[Open 11am-9pm daily.]
This repurposed former train station (Manseibashi, last used in 1943) has been beautifully transformed into a niche shopping complex, housing a handful of upscale interior and design stores, cafes, restaurants and other shops. Part of the original...
Meiji Jingu - Shrine: Harajuku
[Open sunrise to sunset daily.]
One of Tokyo's major tourist destinations, Meiji Shrine is especially popular at New Year's, drawing more than three million visitors during the first three days of January. (The main New Year's Day ritual is held at 7am on January 1.) Other...
National Noh Theater - Theater: Sendagaya
This strikingly modern building is a venue for performances of Noh and Kyogen. The auditorium seats 591 people; there is also a reference library, exhibition area and cafeteria.
Sensoji Temple - Temple: Asakusa
Dating back to A.D. 628, this is Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple and also its most popular. Leading from the main gate is a long pedestrian walk lined with nearly 100 bustling little stands selling souvenirs and crafts. This is one of the rare...
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...
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...
Hatakeyama Museum - Museum: Takanawadai
[Open April-Sept 10am-5pm; Oct-March 10am-4:30pm (enter by 30 minutes before closing). Closed Mondays.]
Antique ceramics and items related to the tea ceremony are the focus of this small facility. Everything is from the private collection of rich industrialist and tea-ceremony devotee Issei Hatakeyama, including 33 pieces that have been designated as...
Musee Tomo - Art museum: Kamiyacho
[Open 10am-6pm. Closed Mondays.]
Tomo Kikuchi has assembled one of the best collections of contemporary Japanese ceramic art in the world, including works by many recognized master potters, and her collection is still growing with the addition of newly added pieces each year. ...
Sumida Hokusai Museum - Art museum: Ryogoku
[Open 9:30am-5:30pm (enter by 5pm). Closed Mondays.]
This lovely museum is devoted to the work of Katsushika Hokusai, Japan's most famous woodblock artist, who lived and worked for most of his life here in this shitamachi neighborhood. Exhibition spaces are spread out over two floors, with the larger...

Japanese gardens

Hama-Rikyu Gardens - Park/garden: Tsukiji
[Open 9am-5pm (enter by 4:30) daily.]
Sitting on the Tokyo Bay waterfront in the shadow of the skyscrapers of Shiodome, this massive garden was once part of a shogun's villa, with two ponds that were used for wild-duck hunting. It contains the only tidal pond in Tokyo, with a lock that...
Kiyosumi Gardens - Park/garden: Kiyosumi-Shirakawa
[Open 9am-5pm (enter by 4:30) daily.]
The garden area here is laid out around a large pond inhabited by turtles, carp and ducks and other birds. Kiyoumi Gardens is best known for its collection of exotic landscape stones gathered from around Japan, many of which are used to create...
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens - Park/garden: Iidabashi
[Open 9am-5pm (enter by 4:30) daily.]
Construction on this vast, 70,000-square-meter landscape garden began in 1629 by members of the Mito Tokugawa family. The garden presents visitors with a series of walks over bridges and ponds and artificially constructed hills, offering vistas of...
Shinjuku Gyoen - Park/garden: Shinjuku Gyoen-mae
[Open 9am-4:30pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Mondays.]
The lovely gardens here include sections with three distinct styles - English landscape gardens, French formal gardens, and Japanese traditional gardens. There are several ponds, and a couple of teahouses where you can stop for green tea and sweets...

Field trips

Bonsai Art Museum - Museum: Omiya
[Open 9am-4:30pm (Mar-Oct); 9am-4pm (Nov-Feb). Closed Thursdays.]
Omiya's Bonsai Village sprang into life just after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, when many bonsai artists from Tokyo relocated here and established a community. Bonsai fans can start their neighborhood tour at this small museum, then visit...
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...
Hikawa Shrine - Shrine: Omiya
This major Shinto shrine was established in 473BC. It is located at the southern end of the massive Omiya Park, surrounded by a grove of Japanese elm trees.
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...