Tokyo National Museum
Gateway to Asian cultures...
As one of the largest art museums in the world and the largest in Japan, Tokyo National Museum complex is surrounded by nature and cultural assets. Of the museums in Ueno Park, it stands out as the most popular one, displaying one of the best national collections of arts. The museum is also known for being easily accessible to foreign visitors.
As the oldest national museum, it dates back to the Meiji Era and opened in 1872.
As the oldest national museum, it dates back to the Meiji Era and opened in 1872. At that time, Japan itself was also starting to re-open to the rest of the world after a centuries-long, self-imposed period of isolation. This is reflected in the international tendency of the museum, which houses not only Japanese exhibits of historical significance, but treasures from all around Asia. Inside the museum complex, you will find galleries featuring art and artifacts from Korea, Southeast Asia, China, Central Asia, India and Egypt.
The main mission of Tokyo National Museum is to convey the history and traditions of Japan and other Asian cultures to future generations through the diversity of its vast art collections and educational activities, such as school programs.
The museum’s collection consists of more than 117,000 items, from paintings and calligraphy to sculptures and archeological artifacts. Among these items, 643 are designated as Important Cultural Properties and 89 as National Treasures. Typically, the museum rotates out the items in its permanent exhibitions every 5-8 weeks, so if you’ve been here before, it may be time to consider another visit!
The museum is also memorable for its wide range of Meiji era artifacts. Chief among these is its collection of classical Japanese paintings from the Heian Era (12th century), through the Kamakura Period (13th century) right up to the Edo Period (17th century). Jomon artifacts (some of which predate Japan’s written history) also feature prominently.
Tokyo National Museum is also very foreigner friendly with free English guided tours a host of other languages and English explanation available for many of the exhibits. By providing accessible introductions to Japanese and other cultures, visitors can become familiarized with Asian traditions.
Overall, the museum strikes a good balance between artistic beauty and historical relevance in its various exhibitions.