One of the world’s biggest concrete jungles, Tokyo is many things. A consumerist dream with its mega department stores and endless pop culture paraphernalia, a historical hub with its centuries of cultural richness, a sensory overload with its flashing lights and all-hours orchestra of city sounds. With so much to do and see, it can be hard to prioritize artistic expeditions. Lucky for you, we’ve got a list of some of Tokyo’s top art addresses to note down before its general craziness gets a chance to distract you.
Mori Art Museum
Creativity soars to great heights at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi, where you can find a gathering of contemporary art and architecture on the 53rd floor of the Mori Tower. The museum is named after Minoru Mori, the real estate developer behind the famous complex, which opened in 2003. The building was designed to lead the way for the future of urban planning, a model for how to unite residential spaces, corporate offices, leisure, art and tourism in one place. Visitors can discover some of the most original, diverse and comprehensive exhibitions the city has to offer before enjoying breathtaking views of Tokyo from the building’s observation deck.
SCAI The Bathhouse
Trips to Japanese bathhouses feature on many touristy to-do lists, but at SCAI The Bathhouse, you’ll be treated to a twist. Though you’ll still enter a public bathhouse (that has been around for 200 years, no less), within the building’s old exterior you’ll find sleek white walls hosting works of contemporary art. The collection of art here is one of the city’s most prestigious, and the experience promises a fascinating mix of the old and new in a charming area of the city.
The Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
The Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, also known as ‘Top Museum,’ was founded by the government in 1995 as the city’s only public museum for photography. Home to themed exhibitions and over 35,000 Japanese and international works, it remains the city’s principal location to celebrate and recognize the best in photography and moving image. Their current exhibition is titled Reading Images: The Stories of Four Places, which has been curated from the museum’s existing collection.
While not your traditional gallery, animation is as synonymous with Japan as sushi and bullet trains, so a tour of Studio Ghibli’s excellence merits a spot in the Tokyo address book. From Howl’s Moving Castle to Spirited Away to My Neighbor Totoro, the studio has cemented its legacy, and, moreover, has plenty to display. Recent exhibitions include one focused on the studio’s use of color and another on the delicious food designs found in many of the most famous Ghibli films. Add some familiar scenery and beloved characters to the mix and you’ve got an immersive experience not to miss.
Tokyo’s unstoppable creativity cannot be confined to museums alone, so it’s a good idea to scrub up on some street art knowledge. The city’s Harajuku district is known for its city-that-never-sleeps energy, extravagant fashion and sensory overload, and Japanese graffiti art figures into this. Keep a lookout for bright, swirling, and highly-instagrammable murals as you pass by cat cafés and accessory stores. Koenji is another art hub, this time with more of a yesteryear flavor. Formerly the heart of Tokyo’s punk scene in the 1970s, today it retains an underground quality whilst existing as a sanctuary for creatives. If you’re looking for Tokyo’s cool side, you can find it here.