The old capital, Kyoto, isn't just home to shrines and temples, but there are many museums as well. Here are 5 particularly recommended museums to check out.
1. Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto's most famous museum is the Kyoto National Museum. It holds about 12,000 pieces including 27 national treasures and 181 important cultural properties. Their collection is made up of a wide variety of genres including paintings, crafts, and archeological materials. The Meiji Kotokan (former main building) was constructed in 1895 and is a brick building in a French Renaissance architecture style. Both the western gate and the walls are designated as national important cultural properties. Now it's the face of the Shichijo area, but actually the gorgeous red brick one-story building that looks like a Western castle was protested against during construction because it was considered inappropriate for Kyoto. On the other hand, the Heisei Chishinkan, opened in 2014, is a modern building that fused the latest techniques with Japanese aesthetics. These two buildings create spaces where you can experience anthropological history and the future at the same time. Inside the grounds there are gardens, Japanese stone Buddha statues, and stone sculptures from the Korean peninsula. Why not reflect upon the past and the future while taking a walk?
2. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
Following the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, in 1933 Japan's second public art museum, the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, opened. Their collection includes around 2,300 pieces of art with a focus on Kyoto art from after the Meiji Era. This makes their collection modern art, and includes paintings in both Japanese and Western styles, sculptures, crafts, calligraphy, and lithographs. They exhibit these pieces based on a variety of themes, and that includes joint exhibitions with outside institutions featuring artwork from overseas. The magnificent Western style building is crowned with a chidori gable often seen on castles that remains from when it was first built in the Teikan style of architecture that fused Western and Japanese aesthetics that was popular in the 1930s. The inside is designed with an art deco-style, and it uses plenty of high-quality marble that's said to be impossible to get ahold of now. Also, they were very particular with details such as the stained glass by the entrance, the lighting, the latticed ceiling, the design of the floor and more, so it's so beautiful you'll gasp at the sight. This is an art museum where you'll enjoy not just the art but also the space the art is exhibited in.
3. The Museum of Kyoto
The Museum of Kyoto opened in 1988 in order to introduce the history and culture of Kyoto in an easy-to-understand way. This institution has a variety of ways to enjoy Kyoto's history and traditional crafts, including exhibition corners, special events, a theater where they introduce famous movies and lectures about Kyoto, and more. You can enjoy Kyoto's past and present here. The red brick annex, considered the museum's symbol, is the renovated Kyoto branch of the Bank of Japan originally constructed in 1906. It was designed by Tatsuno Kingo, the architect behind Tokyo Station's Marunouchi building, and it's a national important cultural property. They have voice guides in Japanese, Chinese, English, and Korean available, so this is an especially recommended spots for people who want to learn about Kyoto's history and culture in a fun way.
4. Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art
Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art is a museum that sits surrounded by abundant nature on the hillside of Mt. Tennozan on the border between Osaka and Kyoto. The main building was constructed by Shoutarou Kaga, a businessman from the early Showa period, who used it as a British-style holiday villa. You can enjoy the art collection but also the villa's lighting, interior design, stained glass, and other furnishings as well. The new building includes an Underground Jewelry Box annex designed in a semi-basement style by Tadao Ando, houses a variety of Western paintings including one of Claude Monet's famous "Water Lilies" series. You can also enjoy the beautiful flowers that bloom throughout the year in the roughly 18,000 square meters of garden on the grounds. There are also water lilies grown in the image of Monet's paintings, so it would be good to take a walk around the garden after seeing the painting.
5. Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum
Fushimi is an area of Kyoto known for having delicious water, so it's also a place well-known for delicious sake and there are many breweries in the area. The symbol of Fushimi, the Horikawa River, has many breweries sitting along the riverside, and there is Gekkeikan, one of the best-known Fushimi breweries. It is a well-established sake brewery that opened in 1637, and they opened the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum to commemorate 350 years of business. The building is a renovated brewery that was constructed in 1909, and you can learn about the important tools involved in brewing sake as well as see models and videos about the process so you can learn about the history of Fushimi's sake breweries and of sake itself. After you take a tour of the museum you can try 3 kinds of sake for free, and it even comes with sake as a souvenir so this museum is definitely a place sake-lovers can't resist. In the inner courtyard you can taste the delicious clear water necessary to make delicious sake, so don't forget to try it as well!
There are many unique museums and galleries in Kyoto. It's fun to enjoy going around shrines, temples, and nature, but why not take a day to enjoy museums too? You'll definitely be able to discover a new side of Kyoto.
*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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