Full Guide on the Tokyo National Museum, the Oldest in Japan

Tokyo National Museum is the oldest museum in Japan. It is located at the forest of Ueno (Ueno no Mori). This article introduces the charm points and highlights of the museum.

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What is the Tokyo National Museum?

Tokyo National Museum has almost 150 years of history, and has been lovingly nicknamed “To-haku”. It contains cultural assets – such as arts and antiquities – from all over Asia, with a focus on Japan, and showcases collections, exhibitions, and scientific research regarding these. The museum has a collection of around 116,000 items, of which 88 are National Treasures and 634 are Important Cultural Properties. It boasts the highest quality and largest quantity of collections in the whole country (as of March 2017). These include items taken from holdings and shrines, which can be found at the Arts and Sciences Exhibition (usually contains around 3,000 items), as well as a large-scale Special Exhibition that differs in theme each time round and is held 3 – 5 times a year.

Arts and Sciences Exhibition Viewing Fee (Special Exhibition requires a separate fee depending on content):
Adults: 620 JPY (incl. tax)
University students: 410 JPY (incl. tax)
High school students or below / 18 years old or below / 70 years or older: Free

Outside Honkan (Japanese Gallery)

Honkan Entrance

What is the Tokyo National Museum?

Highlights of the Museum

The museum has a total of 6 buildings, each of which contains many things to see. It would take you anywhere from half a day to a full day if you wanted to view everything. You would definitely need at least 1 hour! For those of you who do not have time to spare, it is recommended to visit the Highlights of Japanese Art exhibit that is separated by time period. It is located on the 2nd floor of the Honkan, and you can get through it within 30 minutes.

The next section will explain what you will find at the 3 halls, as well as the highlights of each spot.

Exhibitions at the Honkan

The Honkan, which was opened in 1938, serves as the Japanese gallery. The first floor showcases items like sculptures, pottery, and weapons, which are separated by theme. The 2nd floor showcases the Highlights of Japanese Art exhibition, where you can gaze at Japanese artwork that dates back as far as 400 – 13,000 years ago. You may also find national treasures and Important Cultural Properties that showcase the historical aspect of these artworks.

Honkan Room 2 (National Treasure Gallery)

Honkan Room 11 (Japanese Sculpture)

Exhibitions at the Honkan

The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures

Next up is The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, which holds over 300 treasures from the famous Horyuji Temple (Nara) that were donated to the Imperial Family in 1878. One characteristic of this museum is that it encases many treasures from the 7th century. Here, you may appreciate cultural assets that are highly valued as ancient art collection pieces.

Outside The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures

The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures Room 2 (Photo: Akira Sato)

The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures

Toyokan (Asian Gallery)

The Toyokan is the biggest Asian art gallery in Japan. It showcases works from various areas of Asia, such as China, the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia, the Western Regions, India, and Egypt. You can find sculptures, statues, ceramics, busts, and other art works here. They change the exhibited works several times throughout the year.

Outside Toyokan

Toyokan Room 5 (Chinese Decorative Arts)

Toyokan (Asian Gallery)

Enjoy the Architecture Tour

Not only does the museum hold exhibitions, but it also contains a large number of buildings that are worth seeing. For example, the Honkan (Important Cultural Property) made with reinforced concrete and a tiled roof and the Hyokeikan (Important Cultural Property) that has a beautiful dome-shaped roof. There’s also the Kuromon (Important Cultural Property) – the reconstructed main gate to the Ikeda family’s residence (feudal lords of Tottori during the Edo period) – and the Azekura Repository, which is a reconstructed treasury from Jurinin Temple in Nara. You’ll find many structures with a rich historical background.

Outside Hyokeikan

Kuromon (Important Cultural Property)

Enjoy the Architecture Tour


You can view themed artworks in virtual reality at TNM & TOPPAN MUSEUM THEATER, which is located at the Toyokan. You may watch videos through their 300 inch screen, which can show videos in 4k quality. That way, you can see how various Important Cultural Properties were originally like, as well as observe details you normally would not be able to see.
Viewing Fee (Per Work):
Honkan Exhibition Ticket Set:
Adults: 1,000 JPY (incl. tax)
University Students: 800 JPY (incl. tax)
※At latest, tickets are sold 15 minutes before showtime. You may not enter once the video has started.



Please remember to check out the goods at the Museum Shop, which have been designed after various exhibited artifacts. Do also take a look at the museum’s other facilities, such as their restaurants and cafes!

*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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Writer: nakamura

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