1/30/2023     by Justin Gibson

Three of Our Favorite Museums in Japan

Japan has a way of elevating the everyday into high art. This beauty is on full display in every corner of the nation, from the sleek design of bullet trains to the distinctive architecture they fly past. Vibrant manga adorns city center exteriors, and ancient temples and shrines house an elegance that only nature itself could hope to match. The art here? Divine. There’s no shortage of world-class museums and exhibitions to check out when you visit Japan, but here are three that should be at the top of your to-see list.
Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama  
Art truly has a life of its own here at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama.

Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama  

As the world’s first publicly run museum solely dedicated to the art of Bonsai (and just an hour outside of Tokyo), Omiya is (understandably) a must-see. Bonsai is an elegant, living art that requires oceans of patience and restraint. For a suitable comparison, imagine if Michelangelo spent his life slowly growing his masterpiece David from a pebble. Even those uninitiated with the artform can expect to be wowed here: In addition to spelling out the basics (root structure, intended styles and tree choice), the museum showcases several masterpieces estimated to be over a century old. A stroll through this gallery is the perfect meditative afternoon.


Hoki Museum, Chiba  
The venue itself is a work of art at the Hoki Museum, Chiba.

Hoki Museum, Chiba  

For another meditative afternoon, but with a different medium, it’d be wise to check out the Hoki Museum. Located in Chiba (a simple daytrip from Tokyo), this gallery houses 480 paintings along its mesmerizing halls — a tally that is said to be the most extensive library of realist art anywhere in the world. The space itself can also lay claim to the distinction of art, thanks to the efforts of renowned architectural firm Nikken Sekkei. Strolling these long, long corridors, lined with paintings that could pass for windows to moments frozen in time, feels like a dreamscape — a feat all museums aspire to, though rarely achieve.


Museum of Contemporary Art
You can’t not snap a photo when visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art.

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

Just 300 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, is a revelation. In an elegant, ethereal space tucked between mountains and sea, the museum invites artists to produce site-specific installations that grow to be associated with the greater area. The results speak for themselves: Even if you’re not attuned to the modern art world, chances are you’ve seen Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool or Olaflur Eliasson’s Color Activity on social media. Modern art demands to be experienced rather than observed, making this museum something of a pilgrimage you’re fated to make when you visit Japan.

Convinced your next vacation should be a whirlwind tour of Japan’s arts and culture? Just like a master artist shapes clay or strategizes placing paint at a canvas, trust that our travel agents can take the elementary and elevate it to a master stroke. Not only have they accumulated years of wisdom and recommendations to inform your itinerary, but their industry relationships also allow for perks, amenities and incentives you never knew you needed. Summed up: Your vacation days are their canvas, and they’re committed to crafting a work that gives you goosebumps.

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