What to see at the Tokyo National Museum: timetables, prices and advice

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Il Tokyo National Museum is the largest and oldest museum in Japan, boasts a collection of 110.000 works including a hundred national treasures of inestimable value. Its collections offer a vast and in-depth overview of the history and archeology of the country but not only that, inside you can find artefacts from all eras and modern works, as well as numerous temporary exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art.


  1. What to see and how to visit the Tokyo National Museum
  2. Honkan Building: the Japanese Gallery
  3. Toyokan building: the Asian Gallery
  4. Heiseikan building: the Archaeological Gallery
  5. Horyuji Building: the Gallery of Treasures
  6. Hours and prices
  7. User questions and comments

What to see and how to visit the Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum is located inside the Ueno Park and consists of 5 buildings, each dedicated to a specific area of ​​interest:

  1. Honkan building: is the main building that was inaugurated in 1938 and offers a large variety of Japanese works ranging from antiquity to the nineteenth century, including ancient Buddhist statues, painted doors, ceramics, maps and objects related to custom and tradition such as masks, kimonos, armor and weapons
  2. Hyokeikan building: located to the left of the Honkan building, it is the oldest of the five, built in 1909 on the occasion of the wedding of the Emperor Taisho, this building is a representative example of the western style architecture spread during the Meiji period, and is used generally to host temporary exhibitions
  3. Toyokan building: located to the right of Honkan, the building was designed in 1968 by a famous Japanese architect, here are preserved numerous collections dedicated to Asian art in general, for which not only of Japanese origin but also of Chinese, Korean, Indian, del Southeast Asia and Central Asia
  4. Heiseikan building: located behind the main building, it is one of the most recent additions to the complex, completed in 1993 to commemorate the marriage of the Crown Prince; it hosts temporary exhibitions ranging from those dedicated to ancient Japanese culture to contemporary art
  5. Horyuji Homotsukan building: the newest of the five in the complex, it was built to house a collection of religious objects donated by the Horyuji temple.

Just outside the complex stands the Kuroda Memorial Hall, which was built thanks to the donations of Kuroda Seiki, a Japanese artist considered the father of modern-western style painting in Japan and whose works are kept in this very building.

1 - Honkan Building: the Japanese Gallery

Divided over 2 floors and 24 rooms, the building contains numerous works of Japanese art such as pottery, swords and sculptures. The structure is composed in the following order:

  • Sala 1: dawn of Japanese art. It contains artefacts dating back to the dawn of this noble civilization, with specific references to the Jomon periods (13.000 BC to 300 BC), Yaoi (300 BC to 300 AD) and Kofun (300 to 538). Particular attention is paid in this room to the history of the growth of Buddhism in the Asuka (538 to 710) and Nara (710 to 794) periods.
  • Sala 3: art of Buddhism, Court and Zen and ink paintings
  • Sala 4: art of the tea ceremony
  • Rooms 5 and 6: clothing of the military elite
  • Rooms 7 and 8: art of daily life and development of painting and calligraphy
  • Sala 9: traditional Japanese arts of the No Theater and Kabuki Theater
  • Salt from 11 to 20: sculptures, metal artifacts, katanas and other traditional swords, ceramics

2 - Toyokan building: the Asian Gallery

Divided into 3 floors and 10 rooms, the building contains inside, in addition to a restaurant and shop located on the first floor, numerous sculptures, statues and works of Asian art ordered as follows:

  • Rooms 1 and 2: Chinese Buddhist sculptures
  • Sala 3: sculptures from India and the Kingdom of Gandhara (now Afghanistan and Pakistan)
  • Sala 4: beginning of Chinese civilization
  • Salt from 5 to 9: path on Chinese art with an exhibition of works of art in bronze, ceramic and stone, artifacts dedicated to divination, calligraphy and lacquered decorative art dating back to the Qing Dynasty
  • Sala 10: Korean art, stone and metal artifacts, pottery and objects from Buddhist temples
  • Sala 11: sculptures of the Khmer empire (present day Cambodia)
  • Sala 12: Southeast Asian gilt bronze statues.

3 - Heiseikan building: the Archaeological Gallery

  • First floor: an excursus into Japanese history from antiquity to the pre-modern period made through archaeological artifacts including the famous Jomon ceramics, decorated with the linear applique technique and identified as dating back to 10.000 BC only after the Second World War taking advantage of carbon dating techniques
  • Second floor: rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions or events

4 - Horyuji Building: the Gallery of Treasures

Here are displayed the rich gifts of the Japanese imperial family at the Horyuji Buddhist Temple, among which some of the most fascinating in their precious decorations are the vestments for the Emperor's initiation ceremony and numerous gilded bronze statues.
La third room the gallery is dedicated to the particular gigaku, the large and colorful demonic masks of Japanese folklore.

Hours and prices

  • from 9:30 to 17:00 from Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday, from 9:30 to 21:00 on Friday and Saturday. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
  • Best time to avoid queues: if you have already purchased the ticket by buying it online, you will generally not have to worry about waiting too long, just go to the entrance about ten minutes before opening.
  • 620 yen (about € 5,00)
  • Reductions: students 420 yen (€ 3,30)
  • Free: people under 18 and over 70

Useful tips for visiting the attraction

  1. Get up early: the ideal would be to reach the entrance by 9:30 am and start the visit as soon as the gates are open, so that you can dedicate the whole day to the museum and be able to visit all the buildings without having to sacrifice anything;
  2. Buy the city card: if you are interested in visiting other museums or attractions in the city, you can buy the Grutto Pass, a card that includes discounts and free admissions to 90 museums and attractions in the region
  3. Priority ticket: buy the ticket with priority entrance to avoid the endless queues
  4. Watch out for restrictions: Water or food is not allowed in this museum, make sure you don't have any with you

Where is it and how to get there

  • On foot: the Museum is easy to reach even on foot as it is located inside one of the largest parks in Tokyo, Ueno Park. If you are in the center we recommend using public transport - (Get directions)
  • By metro: take the JR line and get off at Ueno or Uguisuidani stops, from both stops the Museum will be reachable in about 10 minutes on foot.

Historical notes and curiosities: what to know in brief

The Tokyo National Museum was built in 1872 and constituted the first real museum in Japan hosting the first exhibition at Taideiden Hall under the will of the Minister of Education. Shortly after the opening it was moved to the headquarters of Uchiyamashita-cho and in 1882 it was permanently moved to Ueno Park, where it still is. Fifty years after its inauguration in 1923, the museum suffered major damage due to the great Kanto earthquake and consequently it was rebuilt with some architectural changes. In 1945 it was temporarily closed due to the inconvenience due to Second World War. Over the years, not only has the structure undergone several architectural and organizational changes with the advent of the construction of new buildings, but it has also changed several names: in 1886 it was called Imperial Museum, in 1900 instead its wording was changed to Tokyo Imperial Household Museum, until it got its current name in 1947.

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