21_21 Design Sight
Among the abundance of art and design galleries in Tokyo, none are quite like this little gem. Design guru Issey Miyake is one of three directors who do the program planning. Located off the new Midtown complex, the low-rise, triangular-roofed building, designed by Tadao Ando, hosts constantly changing exhibitions. The theme of a recent show was water, and it was a masterpiece of inventive minimalism that produced a near Zen-like atmosphere of calm.
Edo Tokyo Museum
The Edo Tokyo Museum offers a great overview of the city’s history and is designed to allow the visitor to walk through the past. Each area represents a separate era, from the first shogun, in 1590, to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the bombing in WWII. High points include a replica of the famed Nihonbashi Bridge, a reconstructed Kabuki theater and photos and maps of old Edo. Unlike at the Tokyo National Museum, here children as well as adults will enjoy themselves, and the Edo’s location, in the same neighborhood as the sumo stables (where wrestlers live and train), will make a visit even more appealing to young ones.
Mori Art Museum
When Roppongi Hills, a sprawling property development opened in 2003, it received a lot of attention for its ambitious assembly of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and high-end shops. Art aficionados, however, were drawn to a serious little museum at the heart of the frilly extravaganza: the Mori Art Museum, located on the top floor of the centerpiece Mori Tower. Louise Bourgeois’ massive Maman spider looms in front of the entrance to the glass tower, where visitors are whisked to the top via high-speed elevators. The museum doesn’t have a permanent collection; rather, frequently changing exhibits focus on innovative contemporary art featuring established and emerging artists.
National Art Center
Indagare Insider Bryan Walsh recommends visiting the fascinating exhibits that rotate through the National Arts Center.
“Tokyo’s newest museum, the National Art Center has exhibition spaces the size of aircraft hangers and a reputation for bringing in cutting edge art. With no permanent collection, the quality of the museum depends on the traveling exhibitions, but Tokyo has good taste.”
Tokyo National Museum
There’s no better place to see Japanese art than at the Tokyo National Art Museum. The largest and oldest museum in Japan, it houses an incredible collection of antique kimonos, samurai weapons, scrolls, screens, ceramics and more. Be warned, however, that viewing the approximately 4,000 artifacts on display requires serious time; luckily, the museum is well situated, in the beautiful Ueno Park, which, if one half of a traveling pair prefers to make an early exit, is a great place for them to stretch their legs (a top spot when cherry blossoms bloom). Closed Mondays.