From the Louvre to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the tour of world-renowned museums is not complete without a visit to the Tokyo National Museum. Established in 1872, just a few years before the MET was built, the Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan showcases more than 100,000 exhibits, many of which are national treasures or important cultural properties (jūyō bunkazai) dating back to the prehistoric eras.
Perhaps just as impressive as the exhibits is the architecture of the museum itself. To house the extensive collection of artifacts, five separate exhibition buildings were built: the Japanese Gallery, the Japanese Archeology and Special Exhibition, Asian Gallery, The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, and the Hyokeikan (artifacts gallery). In fact, some of the buildings themselves are Japan’s designated cultural property. Within each gallery, exhibits are divided thematically, as well as chronologically as to present them in a narrative fashion. This link will take you to the descriptions of each exhibit. Almost every exhibit has an engraved description in both Japanese and English (Korean and Chinese in some cases), so you need not worry about a language barrier to fully enjoy the museum.
Whether it is the ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints representative of the Edo period, or the samurai armor that dates back to almost 500 years ago, you may want to bring them back to your living room. Needless to say, the museum paid an astronomical amount of money to collect the items, so you will only be able to see them in this museum. But don’t worry, for you can purchase a miniature version of some iconic exhibits at the museum gift shop! The postcards of the ukiyo-e are an especially nice way to greet your friends back home.
The Tokyo National Museum alone would surely be a worthy destination, but Ueno is home to several of Japan’s finest museums: the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the Western Art Museum, and the National Science Museum. On a rainy day or a grueling hot summer day, the air-conditioned museums are a perfect way to enjoy your visit to Tokyo! So hop on the Yamanote Line and head to Ueno.