Housing an exhaustive array of East Asian artworks and antiquities from Japan and surrounding countries, Tokyo National Museum has a history spanning over 140 years. The museum has resided in its current location at Ueno Park since 1882 with over 110,000 items in its permanent collection plus several thousand objects on loan from shrines, temples and private collections.
Japan’s first museum has a focus on art objects, historical documents and antiquities from Japan and other Asian countries. The museum is comprised of six exhibition buildings: the Honkan or main building showcases an array of Japanese art, the Toyokan houses Oriental art, the Heiseikan offers special exhibition galleries as well as the Japanese Archaeological Gallery on the first floor, the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures exhibits the items from the Horyu-ji Temple in Nara, and the Hyokeikan and Kuroda Memorial Hall which are mainly used for special exhibits.
The Honkan, a British-designed building, was redesigned in a more Japanese style after being damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The main gallery comprises 24 exhibition rooms across two floors with a comprehensive chronological look at the development of Japanese art from Jomon to the Edo period through examples of ceramics, swords, lacquerware, sculpture and modern decorative arts. The Japanese Archaeological Gallery within the modern Heiseikan building showcases a chronological exhibit from prehistoric items like stone axes through to the decorative plates of the Edo period. Head to the modern surrounds of the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures to see ancient Buddhist statues and images as well as tools used for the intricate decorative arts of lacquerware, painting and calligraphy. The Toyokan Asian Gallery reopened in January after reinforcements against earthquakes and houses art and artifacts from China, Korea, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and even Egypt.
It’s recommended to set aside an hour to look through the museum, but if you are short on time there are recommended courses through the exhibits. Adult entry to Tokyo National Museum is ¥600 with those under 18 and over 70 admitted for free. To visit, it’s a 10-minute walk from JR Ueno Station through Ueno Park via the Ueno-koen exit.