Wander through these museums with Japanese treasures and renowned paintings right from your couch.
Many of Japan’s incredible museums and galleries are accessible online thanks to Google Arts & Culture. With Google Street View technology you can “walk” through halls by clicking through the passageways, teleport to different floors, and even zoom in on artifacts for a better look.
Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art in Ueno is not just a museum, but a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also one of the only museums in Japan that focuses exclusively on Western art including works by Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Nearly 250 pieces are on display showcasing art from the Baroque, renaissance, and impressionist eras.
The Tokyo National Museum is a great introduction to Japanese art and craftsmanship. It’s home to dozens of national treasures and thousands of Japanese paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and more. Everyone will find something to enjoy here from samurai swords and Buddhist sculptures to Hokusai woodblock prints and everything in between.
Dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in World War II, this museum displays the belongings and testimonies of the city’s resilient survivors. In the virtual collection, you’ll also see paintings made by survivors depicting the devastation they witnessed and photos of scorched artifacts picked out of the rubble, each with a real story of heartache and suffering. Even virtually, the displays offer a powerful reminder of Japan’s harrowing WWII history and the power of hope post-war.
Everything we love about Kyoto and classic Japan can be found under one roof at the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts. There are 74 different Japanese handicrafts preserved in this museum, including weaved baskets, braided cords (as seen in the movie Your Name), paper lanterns, folded fans, and incense. If you visit in person you can book a craft workshop with a professional artisan.
One of the finest ceramics collections in the world can be found in the Museum of Oriental Ceramics in Osaka, which showcases ancient Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Persian earthenware. Two items here are considered national treasures, and thirteen are important cultural properties to Japan. In addition to bowls and vases, you can see statues, Chinese snuff boxes, and even sumo wrestling figurines from the 1680s.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, who became the first shogun of Japan in the year 1600, had an extensive collection of treasures that were passed down through the Tokugawa clan for generations. This collection was used to form the Tokugawa Art Museum in 1935. The museum displays national treasures like the Tale of Genji, illustrated scrolls from the 12th century, as well as samurai helmets, armor, and swords.
If you love beautiful Japanese-style paintings, you must visit the Shohaku Art Museum in Nara—even if only virtually. It showcases the art of Shoen, Shoko, and Atsushi Uemura, three generations of artists. Their modern Japanese-style paintings depict strong women and majestic animals in minimalist nature scenes. The paintings featured here attempt to connect modern Japan with oriental aesthetics.
The Wajima Museum of Urushi Art is the only museum in Japan that specializes in urushi (natural lacquer) art. Lacquer art is made from sap collected from urushi trees. It hardens into a clear coating after being processed and has been used to surface furnishings, utensils, and religious items for more than 9,000 years. At the Wajima Museum of Urushi Art website, you can tour both floors of the museum and view impressive collections of tiered boxes, soup bowls, sake wear, and more.
The Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore features the history and culture of Saitama through the ages. The earliest relics include bone tools and accessories made 30,000 years ago when humans first inhabited the Japanese archipelago. More recent additions to the collection include painted folding screens depicting Edo-era conflict, and scenic ukiyo-e woodblock prints.