5 Museums in Japan You Must See

Japan has some of the world’s greatest museums, thanks to its high social regard for cultural institutions. From human rights and peace museums to contemporary art galleries, Isabella Sascha shares her favorite museums.

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Osaka Art Museum Photo © iStock/coward_lion

1. Mori Art Museum

Located on the 53rd floor of Tokyo’s sixth largest building, Mori Art Museum has become known as one of the world’s most important contemporary art institutions. Unlike many large galleries around the world, Mori was privately established by real estate developer, Mor. 

The museum’s exhibitions are world-class and often particularly reflect the intricacies of Tokyo’s local contemporary art scene. 

Open until 10pm, its late opening hours make it a popular destination for those hoping to experience artistic culture outside of regular 9-5 museum hours.

2. Edo-Tokyo Museum

Japan’s Edo-Tokyo museum is a unique institution and a must-see if you’re in Tokyo. Consisting of permanent exhibitions and temporary specialist exhibitions, this museum always has something interesting on show. 

The large museum also often runs lectures and workshops to engage the crowds with Japan’s rich cultural history.

3. Hiroshima Peace Museum

This is not an easy place to visit, but the importance of its commemoration and goal of a more peaceful global future makes it an important experience for everyone visiting Hiroshima

Through engaged displays of artefacts, photographs, written and verbal testimony, this moving institution gives first-hand accounts of the city’s horrific past.

Despite it’s dark subject matter, its aim is not to shock or lay blame. Rather, its hope is to pass on the learnings of history and to create a peaceful future without nuclear weaponry.

4. National Museum of Art Osaka

Located near Osaka’s Umeda station, it’s hard to miss the unique architecture of this world-class museum. Perhaps the greatest strength of this must-see museum is the varied nature of its exhibition content. 

Usually simultaneously showing its large permanent collection in combination with important international temporary exhibitions, the National Museum of Art showcases art from our past and present in both local and international classical, modern and contemporary exhibitions.

5. Liberty Osaka

The Liberty Osaka museum is an important institution aimed at educating the public around various human rights issues. 

The museum has a focus on the many, lesser-known minorities specific to Japan’s history, such as the Burakumin communities, Aino ethnic groups and Zainichi Korean population. The museum also aims to represent the issues facing LGBT+, senior citizens and physically-challenged individuals. 

Foreign travelers have much to gain from this museum and will learn about some of the issues facing minority groups both in Japan and the rest of the world.

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