Japanese and Chinese paintings, ceramics, calligraphy, tea ceremony implements, swords and mirrors - there are over 5,000 items making up the museum's impressive collection. Unfortunately, though, we'll probably only get to see most of these treasures as postcards in the museum shop - the two exhibition galleries here are disappointingly small, so only a tiny fraction of the collection is on display at any given time.
At least the museum's most famous item is displayed on a regular basis. It's an illustrated scroll of the Tale of Genji dating back to the Heian Period, and it's shown to the public once a year during the first week of May. At other times of the year you can watch a very informative 16-minute video introducing the scroll.
A bigger draw than the collection itself is the huge garden behind the main building. Stone pathways meander through the heavily wooded area, which is well populated by birds. As you follow the sometimes-steep paths you'll encounter stone lanterns and statues, a few carp ponds, a lovely red lacquered gate and a teahouse (open only a few times a year).
Back at the main building, the museum shop presents an unexpected opportunity for upscale gift shopping. A reproduction of the famous Genji scroll goes for Y89,100, while gorgeous ceramic bowls can be yours for Y59,400 each. A bit more down to earth, there's a nice collection of teacups with prices starting at Y2,700, along with the usual selection of postcards and art books.
Exhibits are held six or seven times a year, and the museum is closed between shows, so check their website before you go.
This book will introduce you to more than twenty of Japan's favorite specialty foods that are less well known abroad, along with a guide to the best places in Tokyo to try them and expert tips on what to order. From our sister site Bento.com.