There are many museums in Japan, but here are 5 museums that not only have lovely collections but also have amazing architecture.
1. Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo)
Tokyo National Museum is Japan's oldest art museum, having been established in 1872. It has Japan's number one collection in both quality and size, holding around 120,000 pieces that include 87 national treasures and 634 important cultural properties. On the grounds is the Honkan that houses Japanese art, the Toyokan showcasing Chinese and other Asian art, the Heiseikan that houses Japanese archeological artifacts, the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures that holds around 300 treasures offered to the Imperial Family handed down from Horyuji Temple in 1878, and more. All of the buildings are full of must-see pieces. Among them an area that is especially recommended is the exhibition space on the 2nd floor of the Honkan. There is an exhibition highlighting art from the Joumon period (14,000 BC - 300 BC) to the Edo period (1603 - 1868), so you can see the history of Japanese art at a glance. The exhibitions at the Honkan change every 3 weeks to every 3 months, including national treasures, so you can go as many times as you want and you'll never get tired of it since every time will have new discoveries. Definitely make your way over.
2. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Ishikawa)
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, is next to the famous Kenroku-en gardens in the center of Kanazawa. This art museum was created with the concept of "a park-like art museum that was opened in town," and it exhibits modern art created by artists worldwide. The museum is split into two zones, the public zone and the exhibition zone. The public zone is open until 10:00 pm and you can enjoy it for free. Here the majority of the art pieces aren't made just to be seen but to be enjoyed with all five senses. Also, please notice the architecture of the museum built by Japanese architectural unit SANAA. Most of the outer and inner walls of the round building use glass to create an image of openness to create a space that anyone can easily drop by. This stimulating art museum will influence all art museums from now on and it's a recommended space where kids and adults alike can enjoy themselves.
3. Chichu Art Museum (Kagawa)
Chichu Art Museum opened in 2004 on the island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea. This museum is a place that was constructed to bring together nature and people. The permanent exhibits feature art by Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter de Maria. The exhibition spaces were constructed with each piece in mind, and the person that created the unity between art, architecture, and space, was the world-famous architect Tadao Ando. The entire museum is underground so it wouldn't detract from the beautiful sight of the Seto Inland Sea, but natural light floods the inside of the museum so the way the art looks changes throughout the day with the angle of the sun. Within the museum there is an underground cafe where you can gaze upon the lovely view of the Seto Inland Sea, so it's recommended to take a break here after looking at the art.
4. Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (Aichi)
Yoshio Taniguchi is an architect that represents 20th century design and has designed quite a few art museums. The Toyota Municipal Museum of Art is considered his masterpiece, and it's a public museum with a focus on contemporary and modern art from both domestic and international artists. The focus of its collection is art from the Vienna Succession, surrealism, the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1880s-1920s, and other art and design movements from the 20th century to modern Japanese art created after the 1990s. Its collection has a wide variety and both its permanent and special exhibitions are popular. The minimalist architecture made of lines and rectangles isn't just beautiful but it's functional. It was designed so that no matter what piece was displayed it would be lovely thanks to the lighting and environment. The sight of the building reflected in the man-made pool in front of it is so beautiful you'll gasp. It's an art museum that will make you want to see serious art.
5. Aomori Museum of Art
The Aomori Museum of Art was opened in 2006 to introduce the local culture of Aomori. It's adjacent to the Sannai-Maruyama site, a designated national special historic site where village ruins from the Joumon period were excavated. The museum was built with a design inspired by the ruins. According to the architect, Jun Aoki, he placed the white, uneven scructure on a ground filled with trenches so that he could use the the brown base to contrast with the white walls for a unique exhibition space. The symbols that look like arrows at the main entrance is meant to symbolize the "a" of "Aomori" and trees, and it was designed with the thought that they want the museum to grow the way a group of trees grow into a forest. The hall in the center of the art museum is 19m tall and 21m around. In that space three of the backdrops for the ballet "Aleko," painted by Marc Chagall, are permanently exhibited there, and the sight of them packs a punch. Aomori Museum of Art is popular with young people out in the countryside. Please come see the beauty of these sights that can't be described with words.
While these museums are great in both architecture and art collections, there are still quite a few museums and art galleries around. Please visit various places to find the one that suits you best.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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