Art lovers rejoice; there are lots of art museums in Tokyo. So many in fact, that it can be a little overwhelming — but that’s where we come in. Here are our top picks for the best art museums in Tokyo.

What you need to know about art museums in Tokyo

Before you go rushing off to all the cool places on this list, let’s get some of the basics out of the way. There is no real difference between an art gallery and an art museum in Japan, so don’t let the names confuse you. And speaking of names, lots of places tend to have long names that are confusingly similar — check addresses carefully so you don’t end up in the wrong place!

As for etiquette, the rules are much the same as the rest of the world. You can’t usually eat or drink inside the museums, and photos/videos are generally not allowed — unless there is a sign saying otherwise. Some art galleries in Tokyo will even expect you to leave your bags in a coin locker, so have some hundred-yen coins handy.

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Finally, don’t expect smaller art galleries in Tokyo to have information in English. Bigger ones usually have good translations, though.

1. Mori Art Museum: Modern classics

From ¥1,800 for adults
Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Roppongi

The Mori Art Museum is one of the biggest hitters on the Tokyo art scene. Located in the upscale neighborhood of Roppongi it specializes in contemporary art. It hosts one special exhibition at a time, usually lasting for several months. The museum will often have exhibits featuring international artists, and sometimes even has tie-in film screenings.

One of the best things about Mori Art Museum is that there is enough in the area to keep you busy for the whole day. After visiting the museum, you can also go to the Mori Art Center Gallery and Tokyo City View. Plus, there’s a whole lot of other things to do in Roppongi.

2. Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum: Art Deco — and art

Usually ¥1,000 to ¥1,400 (varies according to the exhibition)
Meguro

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. | Photo by Maria Danuco

If you like Art Deco architecture, then you’ll love the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. The original residents of the building were the Prince and Princess Asaka, who had fallen in love with Art Deco while in Paris; so much so, that they hired a French artist named Henri Rapin to design the interior of the main rooms.

Today, the museum features a rotation of different exhibitions which are spread throughout the house. Because the house itself is considered a work of art, no major changes have been made to the interior. Exhibitions tend to feature contemporary art across several media including photography, sculpture, and glass work. Displays are elegant, thoughtful, and just a little bit fancy.

Pro tip: Take a wander through Tokyo’s hidden forest while you’re in the area.

3. Yayoi Kusama Museum: Polka dots and pumpkins

¥1,100
Shinjuku

Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama, the woman behind the polka dots. | Photo by ©YAYOI KUSAMA

How could we not include this museum? Yayoi Kusama is an absolute icon of the Japanese art world, and enjoys worldwide recognition. Even if you don’t know her name, you’ll know her signature polka-dot pumpkins.

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Located in the Waseda neighborhood of Shinjuku, the Yayoi Kusama Museum displays the works of its namesake artist. To avoid overcrowding, the museum limits entry to 200 people per day, for 90 minutes each – but honestly, we like that. It makes visiting much more relaxing, because you’ve actually got some breathing space.

If you don’t manage to get a ticket, don’t despair. You can also see Kusama’s work in other museums around Japan. For example, check out the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, Naoshima Island, or the Fukuoka Art Museum.

4. Sumida Hokusai Museum: Famous ukiyo-e art

From ¥400 for adults
Sumida

A life-sized model of Hokusai’s art studio. | Photo by Maria Danuco

The Sumida Hokusai Museum is a great place for fans of traditional Japanese art. Located in the sumo area of Ryogoku, it documents the life of Hokusai, an artist who produced some of the most recognizable art in Japan. That wave with Mount Fuji in the background? Yes, that one.

The museum also introduces you to Japanese art in general, with explanations about various artistic techniques. Don’t miss the gift shop — it’s small, but has plenty of great souvenir-worthy things to choose from. We liked the postcards featuring some of Hokusai’s less well-known pieces.

5. Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum: A must in Ueno

From free to ¥2,000 (varies according to the exhibition)
Ueno Park

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. | Photo by iStock.com/coward_lion

If you’re hitting up the museums and zoo in Ueno Park, don’t skip the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. It always has several exhibitions on at once, and features a wide range of art styles from both local and international artists.

The museum feels more like a community space than some of the other suggestions on our list, partially thanks to the fact that it’s supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. It also helps that many of the exhibitions are free to enter, so the museum always has people wandering around.

Got time to spare? There are lots of things to do in Ueno to keep you busy.

6. Tokyo Photographic Art Museum: For photography fans

From ¥700 (varies by exhibition)
Yebisu Garden Place, Meguro

Photos, photos, everywhere. | Photo by Maria Danuco

The Tokyo Photographic Art Museum is the biggest photography museum in Tokyo; its collection is huge. But would you expect anything less from the country that brought us beloved camera brands like Nikon and Canon, and the film giant Fujifilm?

Photography buffs won’t be able to get enough of the three floors of galleries. Visitors can even use the library or print study room; plus, there’s a studio that hosts workshops.

Each exhibition has a separate entry charge, so we recommend checking ahead of time to decide what you want to see. While there isn’t a lot of English signage in the exhibitions themselves, most have an English-language information pamphlet available.

Tokyo art museum FAQs

Are there any free art galleries in Tokyo?

Yes, there are a number of free art galleries in Tokyo. You can also find a bunch in the luxury-shopping neighborhood of Ginza.

What’s the difference between art museums and art galleries?

“Art museum” and “art gallery” are used fairly interchangeably in Japan to refer to a place that exhibits art. “Art museum” tends to be the preferred translation for bigger, more official places, while “art galleries” are usually smaller.

What discounts are there for art museums in Tokyo?

There are a few different discount passes for art museums in Tokyo, including the Grutto Pass and the Tokyo Pass. Depending on the museum, they will either get you discounted or free entry.

Some museums also take part in free admission days or have student discounts. You might want to check museum websites for discount schemes too, like cheaper tickets on weekdays, or 20% off if you visit during your birthday month.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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