Beyond Tokyo’s tantalising cuisine and to-die-for desserts, vibrant shopping and captivating culture, this Japanese metropolis boasts an awe-inspiring array of museums that cater to every curiosity. Whether you’re a die-hard anime devotee, an aficionado of traditional Japanese art, or an architecture enthusiast seeking inspiration, these awe-inspiring museums in Tokyo have you covered.
Lush Inokashira Park doesn’t just contain a beautiful pond, a zoo and an aquarium – it’s also home to the world-famous Studio Ghibli museum. Often dubbed the ‘Disney of the East’, Studio Ghibli is a cult favourite, thanks to animated classics such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away. Marvel at this beautiful museum that’s adorned with character-themed stained glass windows, vibrant foliage and whimsical forest animal sculptures. Beginning with a greeting by the iconic Totoro mascot at the entrance, visitors embark on a journey through a wonderland of beloved characters.
Immerse yourself in exclusive short films at the Saturn theatre, and bask in the tranquillity of the rooftop garden. Then, savour themed delights at the café, and explore the treasure trove of titles at the bookstore. Don’t miss the enchanting Catbus replica from the movie My Neighbour Totoro as well. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. Considering they vanish quicker than a firefly’s glow, you’ll want to snag them at least a month prior to your intended visit.
How to get to Ghibli Museum in Tokyo: Alight at the JR Mikata station and take a 15-minute walk to the museum. Alternatively, you can take a community bus to the museum from the south exit of the station for a small fee.
Roppongi Hills is the place to be for all things trendy and tech-related, and at the heart of the city is the Mori Tower, where you’ll find indulgent restaurants, an observation deck for some of the best skyline views and the Mori Art Museum, a grand gallery on the 53rd floor. This museum in Tokyo houses modern art exhibitions in a variety of genres, including fashion, architecture, design, photography and video, with a focus on contemporary Asian art. Spectacular art aside, we love that the museum has a stunning indoor observatory and a rooftop observation deck that’s open till late. It’s an ideal place to take in the city skyline, especially at sunset.
How to get to Mori Art Museum in Tokyo: Alight at the Roppongi station from the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line and take a 3-minute walk towards the museum.
Unleash your inner TV fanatic at NHK Studio Park, the hub of Japan’s broadcasting history since 1925. The NHK Museum of Broadcasting is nestled in Shibuya, one of Japan’s busiest districts where you’ll find plenty of fashion, shopping haunts and the famous Scramble Crossing. This museum takes you on a ride through the captivating world of Japanese television. Immerse yourself in exhibits showcasing original relics from iconic TV programmes that have shaped this nation’s cultural landscape. Dive into an on-demand video library, or get lost in the depths of the reference library, which offers behind-the-scenes insights. Don’t miss the thematic exhibition zone, where the magic of Japanese TV unfolds before your eyes. Best of all? Admission is on the house.
How to get to the NHK Museum of Broadcasting in Tokyo: Alight at either the Kamiyacho, Toranomon, Onarimon or JR Shimbashi stations.
Omiya brims with history, whether you’re in the mood for a pilgrimage to the Hikawa Shrine or museums that serve as a love letter to Japan’s fascinating transport history. Come aboard the Railway Museum, where you’ll discover the inner workings of railway systems. From vintage steam and diesel locomotives to captivating simulators, this Tokyo museum has it all. With around 30 railway cars, immersive train cab simulators, intricate model dioramas and even miniatures, you’re on track for an unforgettable journey. Fuel up at the cafeteria, grab railway-themed souvenirs at the museum shop, and let your curiosity soar in the research room.
But wait, there’s more! Experience the thrill of driving a train with simulators featuring the legendary D51 steam locomotive, speedy Shinkansen and iconic lines like the Tokaido, Keihin Tohoku and Yamanote. Reservations are a must, so don’t get derailed – make your move at the reservation terminals in the museum. There’s also an app to guide you through the exhibits and enhance your visit.
How to get to The Railway Museum in Tokyo: Alight at the Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan station; the museum is a one-minute walk from there.
Plan a leisurely trip to the Machida district for a chance to explore farms, ancient temples or simply to discover the brilliant mind behind the iconic comic strip, Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz. This genius cartoonist who introduced the world to Snoopy and Charlie Brown may be American, but the Japanese have fully embraced the charm of Peanuts. The Snoopy Museum Tokyo is a whimsical wonderland that presents Schulz’s work in the most adorable way imaginable, with original cartoons, comic strips and cherished memorabilia at every turn. Brace yourself for a constant infusion of creativity as the museum curates new exhibitions every six months, straight from the renowned Charles M. Schulz Museum in California. And prepare to have your cravings satisfied at Café Blanket, where a themed menu serves up delectable treats almost too beautiful to eat.
How to get to the Snoopy Museum Tokyo: The museum is a four-minute walk from the Minami-machida Grandberry Park station.
6. Sumo Museum
This cosy museum in Tokyo is located in Ryogoku Kokugikan, the stadium where professional sumo tournaments take place six times a year. The Sumo Museum has an amazing range of items relating to the history of the sport. These include nishiki-e (multi-coloured woodblock prints), sumo dolls, banzuke (official ranking lists) and kesho-mawashi (ceremonial aprons worn by rikishi, the highest-ranked wrestlers). Ryogoku is regarded as the home of sumo, Japan’s national sport, so it’s highly likely you’ll bump into a sumo wrestler along the way or even while visiting the museum.
How to get to the Sumo Museum in Tokyo: Get off at Ryogoku station. The museum is a one-minute walk from the JR Sobu Line and a five-minute walk from the Toei Oedo subway line.
Toshima City may have a grittier reputation than other wards in Tokyo, but the immersive Tokiwaso Manga Museum more than makes up for it. Step into the legendary building that once housed Osamu Tezuka, a revered manga master, and be transported to the vibrant manga scene of the 50s and 60s. This immersive museum is a time capsule of creativity, with its recreated communal kitchens, nostalgic toilets and meticulously reconstructed rooms that once belonged to manga masters like Hideko Mizuno, Tokuo Yokota and Joji Yamauchi. Wonder at the vintage tools of the trade, which give a glimpse into the artistry of manga creation in bygone days. Discover the very spaces where these masters worked, collaborated, and honed their craft.
And that’s not all – venture beyond the museum’s doors, and you’ll find yourself in a mecca of manga shops, beckoning you to explore the realms of your favourite characters and stories. A reservation guarantees your entrance, but if you haven’t bought a ticket in advance, you can still enter – provided admissions aren’t already full.
How to get to Tokiwaso Manga Museum in Tokyo: Alight at the Ochiai-Minami-Nagasaki station from the Toei Oedo Line, as the museum is only a five-minute walk from there.
Ueno Park isn’t just one of Tokyo’s oldest parks – and a prime destination during cherry blossom season – it is also a hub for some of the city’s best museums and galleries. The standout attraction is, of course, the Tokyo National Museum. This gigantic institution features artworks and antiquities from Japan and other Asian countries. The Honkan Gallery within the museum covers Japanese art from the country’s prehistory through to its Edo period, with rooms displaying ceramics, swords, lacquerware, sculptures and modern decorative arts. Don’t miss the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures, a hidden gem containing treasures that the Horyuji Temple donated to the Imperial Household in 1878. Other galleries cover Asian art, Meiji-era architecture, Imperial treasures and crafts.
How to get to the Tokyo National Museum: The museum is a 10-minute walk from Ueno or Uguisudani stations along the JR line.
Tokyo’s buzzing Shinjuku City may be a hot spot for nightlife, but it’s also a where to go for a slice of Yayoi Kusama’s whimsical work. At this Tokyo museum, polka dots dance with boundless energy, infinity mirrors transport you to ethereal dimensions and vibrant sculptures pulsate with life. Resembling portals to kaleidoscopic dreamscapes, Kusama’s immersive works are a trippy experience. The curations here rotate on a regular basis, so you’ll always find something new. Tickets must be bought only online and well in advance. Note that your time in the museum is limited to 90 minutes, and there are at least 200 visitors a day. If you’re bringing the kids along, there’s a fun children’s guide that introduces the little ones to Kusama’s life and work.
How to get to the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo: Alight at the Ushigome Yanagicho station from the Toei Subway Oedo line and take a six-minute walk, or walk for two minutes from the Ushigome Bentencho (Ushigome Hoken Center) bus stop.
10. Yushukan Museum
Well-connected Chiyoda City is the centre of Japan’s politics and government. It’s a fitting space then, from which to peer into Japan’s war history. A thought-provoking journey awaits at the Yushukan Museum, which houses artefacts from 1894 to the end of World War II. Amongst them, you’ll find the haunting remnants of convicted war criminals, personal effects of Japanese soldiers who fought under the banner of their Emperor and an astonishing array of displays, ranging from kamikaze flying bombs to suicide attack submarines and awe-inspiring tanks. Established in 1882, Yushukan stands as Japan’s first and oldest military museum. However, be prepared for its often-revisionist stance on the nation’s military past and wartime actions. Don’t leave without a memento – grab toy army flags and military-themed gifts at the gift shop. Or take a break at the café, where authentic ingredients and recipes used in Japanese Navy ships are revived in delicious dishes.
How to get to the Yushukan Museum in Tokyo: Enjoy a five-minute walk from Kudanshita station on the Tozai, Hanzomon, and Toei Shinjuku lines.
11. Edo-Tokyo Museum
(closed for renovations until 2025)
Housed in a warehouse-style building, also in the Ryogoku district, the Edo-Tokyo Museum explores the history and culture of old Tokyo (known as the Edo period from 1603 to 1868). The museum in Tokyo features a life-sized Japanese village that includes a grand Kabuki theatre that visitors can enter – truly an immersive experience to remember. Aside from this, it also contains a range of artefacts and replicas, miniature villages and war scenes.
How to get to the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Tokyo: Alight at Ryogoku station.
(closed for renovations until further notice)
Yebisu Beer is brewed and bottled in Japan, and it is in this museum that you can discover the history and techniques of making this beer. There is also a tasting room and a beer gift shop in this Shibuya attraction. We recommend signing up for the 40-minute Yebisu Tour, which includes two glasses of beer at the end. Additional glasses of beer can be purchased at a discounted rate if you choose to hang around the tasting room.
How to get to the Museum of Yebisu Beer in Tokyo: Alight at Ebisu station.
13. Samurai Museum
This extensive museum, also in Shinjuku, displays statues of samurai warriors, replicas of their swords and their costumes. The samurai has been a quintessential Japanese icon for hundreds of years. Its origin traces back to the Heian period between 794 to 1185, where samurai served as mercenary warriors for wealthy landowners’ personal armies. The two most powerful of these landowning clans, the Minamoto and Taira, eventually battled each other for supremacy. Minamoto Yoritomo emerged victorious and set up a military government in 1192, led by the shogun or supreme military commander. The samurai would rule over Japan for the next 700 years – learn all about this and more at the Samurai Museum. Don’t miss the combat showcases, and an area where you can dress up in a samurai costume and pose with a replica weapon of choice.
How to get to the Samurai Museum in Tokyo: Alight at Seibu Shinjuku station and take an eight-minute walk to the museum.
Originally written by James Wong and published by Singapore Press Holdings in 2021. Updated in June 2023 by Hazel Vincent De Paul.