When you think of museums, you might think of stuffy, old buildings with snooze-worthy displays, but museums across Japan seem to defy those expectations. There are plenty of unique museums throughout the country, and a number of those are open-air venues. This guide covers five of Japan's best open-air museums to explore on your next visit.
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
The combined effects of fires, floods, earthquakes and war have seen numerous historic buildings in Japan lost forever or significantly damaged. The Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum was opened in 1993 as a remedy to this, and it aims to relocate, reconstruct, preserve, and showcase different traditional buildings that have great cultural value.
At the venue, visitors can explore traditional merchant houses, Western-style homes built in Japan, a public bathhouse, a teahouse, and plenty more.
3 Chome-7-1 Sakuracho, Koganei, Tokyo 184-0005
Hakone Open Air Museum
Art aficionado? Don't miss the Hakone Open Air Museum in Kanagawa Prefecture. Opened in 1969, the museum has a variety of incredible outdoor displays, including sculptures and art installations from Niki de Saint Phalle, Arnaldo Pomodoro, and Henry Moore to name just a few. In total, the museum has approximately 120 outdoor sculptures displayed on a site of 70,000 square meters.
One of the photogenic highlights is the 18 meter-high Symphony Sculpture from French artist Gabriel Loire, thanks to its beautiful stained glass and spiral staircase design.
1121 Ninotaira, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0407
Kirishima Open-Air Museum
Kagoshima's Kirishima Open-Air Museum is set over a spacious 20 hectares, and visitors can enjoy a variety of sculptures and other artworks across the grounds. Some of the pieces on display include Jeonghwa Choi's "You are the Art," where the sculpture serves as a frame for the surrounding scenery, and Ulrich Rückriem's "Stone Setting," where several stone pillars appear as if they're bursting from the earth.
6340-220 Koba, Yusui, Aira District, Kagoshima 899-6201
Another great destination for architecture fans is Kagawa's Shikoku Mura, which is home to 33 traditional buildings that have been relocated from all across Shikoku island. There are examples of residences that belonged to important families, a soy sauce brewery, a tea house, and even a kabuki theater stage.
At the venue, visitors should also check out the Shikoku Mura Gallery. Designed by famous architect Tadao Ando in 2002, the gallery includes a wide variety of items on display including European paintings, sculptures, Buddhist statues, bronze objects, and books.
91 Yashima-Nakamachi, Takamatsu, Kagawa, 761-0112
Historic Village of Hokkaido
Located around 30 minutes from the central Sapporo area, the Historic Village of Hokkaido displays relocated and restored buildings from 1868 to the 1920s that represent the region's history. 52 buildings make up the village, and they are arranged in four specific areas: the town, a fishing village, a farm village, and a mountain village. Each building has displays that provide a window into the lifestyles, industries, and culture at the time.
50-1 Atsubetsucho, Atsubetsu Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 004-0006