Japan Art Itinerary - ART FIX
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Japan Art Itinerary

Art Fix is heading East! If a trip to Japan is on your agenda (or bucket list), it's never too early to start planning artsy activities for while you're there. Don't miss out on any highlights - we've got it covered with a selection of essential stops in three main cities: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

TOKYO

Tokyo is a sprawling metropolis, overwhelming enough as it is for its long-time residents – for first-time visitors, you’ll need an extra hand. This section of the guide separates the city into its main hubs so you can dive straight into the art scene with zero stress.

SHIBUYA/MEGURO AREA

"Madness is part of life" by Ernesto Neto, Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, September 2012

Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo

A beautifully airy art space in the heart of Tokyo’s ritziest neighbourhood.

Gyre Gallery

Designed by Dutch architects, this luxury shopping complex frequently hosts exciting exhibitions of big names in contemporary art.

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

  • Yebisu Garden Place, 1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku, 153-0062
  • 10:00 – 20:00
  • topmuseum.jp

This one’s for the photography lovers – stop by the bookshop on your way out for a crowd pleasing souvenir.

MINATO AREA

21_21 Design Sight

A meeting of the minds of Tadao Ando and Issey Miyake, this museum is a testament to the creative potential of good design.

Mori Art Museum

  • 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-0032
  • 10:00 – 22:00, until 17:00 on Tuesdays
  • mori.art.museum

Nestled away at the top of the 238-metre tall Mori tower in the heart of Roppongi, this nationally-revered museum has hosted exhibitions of all the top international artists in modern and contemporary art.

teamLab Borderless

  • Azabudai Hills Garden Plaza, 1-2-4 Azabudai, Minato-ku, 105-0001
  • Opening February 2024
  • teamlab.art

An exciting new location of this world renowned digital art museum is opening its doors in the chic Azabudai Hills Plaza.

Azabudai Hills Gallery

A short walk down the street from teamLab Borderless, the new Azabudai Hills Gallery houses its own impressive exhibitions, beginning 2024 with an Olafur Eliasson solo show.

National Art Centre Tokyo

  • 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-8558
  • 10:00 – 18:00
  • nact.jp

The spectacular architecture of the building itself makes this museum well worth a visit.

Nezu Museum

  • 6-5-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, 107-0062
  • Changing opening hours; check website for more information
  • nezu-muse.or.jp

Tucked away in the quiet Aoyama neighbourhood, this museum is home to an impressive collection of pre-modern Japanese art. The serenity of its private garden is an oasis in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

Galerie Perrotin

  • Piramide Building, 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-0032
  • Changing opening hours; check website for more information
  • perrotin.com

Paris in Tokyo! Perrotin’s Tokyo location is an understated yet impressive space for unique, cross-disciplinary art projects.

SHINJUKU/CHUO AREA

Yayoi Kusama Museum

Where better to immerse yourself in the work of Kusama than in Japan? Tickets are not available at the door, so be sure to check the website for entry times before going.

Tokyu Kabukicho Tower Art Gallery

In the city that never sleeps, the Kabukicho Tower is a beacon of art at all hours of the day. With artworks hidden at almost every floor of the building, including the luxury Pan Pacific Hotel, there’s so much to explore here.

Ginza Graphic Gallery

  • DNP Ginza Building, 7-7-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, 104-0061
  • 11:00 – 19:00, closed on Sundays
  • dnpfcp.jp

The Ginza area is full of art galleries – but this is a lesser-known, unique space dedicated to graphic design.

SURROUNDING AREAS

WHAT Museum

Having opened during the pandemic, this collector’s museum is one you might not have heard of yet. Similar to the concept of the Boijmans van Beuningen Depot, at WHAT museum, you can take an insider look at the way art warehouses work in new and innovative ways.

Terrada Art Complex

  • Terrada Art Complex I: 1-33-10 Higashi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku
  • Terrada Art Complex II: 1-32-8 Higashi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, Japan
  • Check gallery websites for opening hours
  • terrada-art-complex.com

If you’re in the mood for some gallery-hopping, the Terrada Art Complex is a one-stop-shop situation for all the top galleries in Tokyo. Make sure you leave enough time to visit both parts of the Complex!

Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo

  • 4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku, 135-0022
  • 10:00 – 18:00, closed on Monday
  • mot-art-museum.jp

Boasting an impressive collection of approximately 5700 works of (mostly) postwar art, a day at MoT is certainly worth making a day of.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

  • 8-36 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, 110-0007
  • 9:30 – 17:30, closed every first and third Monday of the month
  • tobikan.jp

This historic institution is the oldest and largest art museum in Japan, best known by locals for its blockbuster temporary exhibitions showcasing both international and Japanese artists. If you’re looking for a unique souvenir for your travels, take a look at the unique exhibition poster collection by the gift shop.

teamLAB Planets

  • 6-1-16 Toyosu, Koto-ku, 135-0061
  • 9:00 – 22:00
  • teamlab.art

If you’ve come all the way to Japan, you couldn’t possibly miss this fascinating attraction. It’s truly a unique, immersive experience that will have you starstruck for days – also good fun for kids.

KYOTO

National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto

  • 26-1 Okazaki Enshoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, 606-8344
  • 10:00 – 18:00, closed Mon
  • momak.go.jp

MoMAK is a fresh departure from the big museums in Tokyo – alongside its impressive collection of international art, there is also a great care for Japanese-style art and artists from the Kansai region, in particular from the Kyoto School.

Kahitsukan Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art

  •  271 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, 605-0073
  • 10:00 – 18:00, closed Mon
  • kahitsukan.or.jp

This hidden treasure may be unassuming from outside, but holds an impressive collection of the city’s contemporary artworks. Head to the fifth floor to experience the seasonal beauty of the building’s highlight attraction; the Sun Garden.

Kyocera Museum of Art

The recently renewed Kyocera Museum of Art is tucked away in the highly scenic Higashiyama area, an essential stop on your way to the iconic Heian Jingu shrine.

MtK Contemporary Art Gallery

Conveniently, Kyoto’s art scene is mostly gathered to one corner of the city. MtK positions itself as a gallery which promotes emerging artists from the Western region of Japan.

Taka Ishii Gallery

  • 123 Yada-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8442
  • 10:00 – 17:30, closed Sun – Wed
  • takaishiigallery.com

This is a brand new location of a prestigious gallery founded in the 90s, focused on promoting emerging Japanese artists into the international scene. Housed in a former traditional tea house, this gallery encapsulates the old-and-new juxtaposition that is essential to Japanese culture.

Cohju Contemporary Gallery

  • 557 Bishamon-cho, Nakagyo-ku, 604-0981
  • 13:00 – 18:00, Tues – Sat 
  • cohju.com

Cohju Gallery is an intimate space which aims to deepen the relationship between Japanese artists and the international art scene, and vice versa.

OSAKA

Espace Louis Vuitton Osaka

  • 2-8-16 Shinsaibashi-suji, Chuo-ku, 542-0085
  • 12:00 – 20:00 during exhibition periods
  • espacelouisvuitton.com

This beautiful exhibition space has a unique façade which recalls the historical role of Osaka as the largest port city in Japan.

Art Fix tip: Stop by Le Cafe V on the 7th floor for a beautifully manicured pastry with a cup of coffee

National Museum of Art Osaka

  • 4-2-55 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, 530-0005
  • 10:00 – 17:00, closed on Mondays
  • nmao.go.jp

Housing Japan’s largest collection of contemporary art, this institution has been an important space for large-scale thematic exhibitions.

ARTCOURT Gallery

This gallery promotes young emerging artists, but has a special focus on work from the Japanese avant-garde ‘Gutai’ movement, which peaked in the postwar period from the 50s to the 70s.

Tezukayama Gallery

  • 1-19-27 Minami-Horie, Nishi-ku, 550-0015
  • 12:00 – 19:00, Tue – Sat
  • tezukayama-g.com

Just a short walk from the iconic Dotonbori bridge of Osaka city, this compact space hosts intimate exhibitions celebrating young artists of the area.

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: OTHER ESSENTIALS AND ART FAIRS

Hakone Open Air Museum

  • 1121 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa-ken, 250-0407
  • 9:00 – 17:00
  • hakone-oam.or.jp

In the lush greenery of the hot spring capital of Japan, this open air museum of sculptural works is a short day trip out of Tokyo for the whole family.

Naoshima Art Island

An art lover’s trip to Japan is totally incomplete without some time spent on the island of Naoshima, commonly known as Japan’s art island. Housing many contemporary art museums (Benesse House, Chichu Art Museum, Tadao Ando Museum & Lee Ufan Museum) with impressive artworks by artists including Claude Monet, Walter De Maria, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gerhard Richter, multiple James Turrell experiences and many more. 

Art Fix Tip: Don’t miss Yayoi Kusama’s famous Pumpkin sculpture or the Naoshima bath house designed by Shinro Ōtake. We recommend staying the night at Benesse House hotel and opting for the beach guesthouses to enjoy the magic of the island and its artworks at night.

Teshima Art Museum

Just a quick ferry ride from Naoshima, Teshima island is also home to an unforgettable work of architectural innovation. The concrete structure titled ‘Matrix’ is designed by artist Rei Nato, and brings a meditative atmosphere to your art-filled trip. Rent an electric bike (where you can also check which installations are open) so you can make the most of the island and its many other artworks.

Art Setouchi Triennale

The Seto Inland Sea is home to almost 3000 islands, many of which remain uninhabited, but played a historic role as the locus trade and cultural exchange. Art Setouchi is an initiative hosted every three years as a revitalisation project, which breathes new life into the area with exhibitions and open-air art spaces.

Art Fix Tip: At the end of your island-hopping trip, make a stop in the town of Kurashiki on the mainland in Okayama prefecture – a quaint picturesque city of Edo-period canals and the birthplace of trendy Japanese denim. The Ohara Museum exhibits an impressive collection of Western art, including works by Matisse, Gaugin, Monet and El Greco.

House of Light by James Turrell

  • 2891 Ueno, Tokamachi, Niigata 948-0122
  • 11:30 – 15:00 (check website for seasonal opening hours)
  • hikarinoyakata.com

This exquisite meditation house, designed by none other than James Turrell, is a space inspired by Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki’s work ‘In Praise of Shadows’. You can either make a day-time visit, or plan your stay there to use it as an accommodation.

Towada Art Centre

  • 10-9 Nishi-Nibancho, Towada-shi, Aomori 034-0082
  • 9:00 – 17:00, closed on Mondays
  • towadaartcenter.com

This space began as a project aimed at reinvigorating the rural area at the north of Japan’s largest island. Their permanent collection comprises site-specific commission works by world-renowned artists including Yoko Ono, Ron Mueck, Yayoi Kusama and Choi Jeong Hwa.

Aomori Museum of Art

  • 185 Chikano, Yasuta, Aomori 038-0021
  • 9:30 – 17:00 (closed on Mondays)
  • aomori-museum.jp

Combined with deeply impactful architecture designed by Jun Aoki, the collection includes a 9-metre high sculpture by Yoshimoto Nara of a dog.

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa

  • 1-2-1 Hirosaka, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa 920-8509
  • Exhibition spaces 10:00 – 18:00, public spaces 9:00 – 22:00
  • kanazawa21.jp

A breathtaking collection, consisting mainly of works produced after 1980, such as Olafur Eliasson, Leandro Erlich, Anish Kapoor and Patrick Blanc.

Hara Museum ARC

Talk about Instagram worthy! From Jean-Michel Othoniel to Yayoi Kusama, Yoshimoto Nara to Tabaimo, this museum houses some of the most dazzling site-specific installations you’ll come across in Japan.

Art Fair Tokyo

Art Fair Tokyo is the oldest art fair in all of Asia – if you happen to visit during the springtime, see if you can bag some tickets to explore all the up-and-coming stars of the continent.

Tokyo Gendai

Bringing together over 80 international galleries, Tokyo Gendai is a new fair held in Yokohama that saw an extremely successful debut in 2023.

RESTAURANTS AND CAFES

TOKYO

Blue Bottle Coffee

With shops all over Tokyo (and other cities), you can depend on Blue Bottle for a delicious coffee at any moment’s notice. Check the store’s website for the complete list of locations.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Along the canalside of the trendy but peaceful Nakameguro neighborhood, this roastery is nestled in a blanket of blooming cherry blossom trees in the springtime – a cool new twist on the Starbucks franchise. Specialty coffee, fancy cocktails, delicious pastries and fun interior pieces are on the menu.

Cicada Omotesando

  • 5-7-28 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0062
  • tysons.jp

Modern Mediterranean food with a moody intimate atmosphere. In the same complex you’ll find Breadworks and Crisscross, both great options for a casual lunch between gallery visits in the Omotesando area.

Sézanne

  • 1-11-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6277 (Four Seasons Hotel 7F)
  • sezanne.tokyo

This is a swanky French restaurant with beautiful works of art (recognize Annie Morris’s sculptures?), occupying the Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo’s financial district. If you don’t believe us, trust the two Michelin stars it’s been awarded – c’est bon, non?

Shirosaka

Shirosaka specialises in charcoal frame-grilled seafood; a cuisine called ‘sumibiyaki’. This is an ‘omakase’ experience, in which you leave it all up to the chef – no menus here!

Isana

Authentic Edo style sushi is served at this intimate contemporary restaurant. Owner-chef Junichi Onuki has had an impressive career, from top hotels across Tokyo to Zuma in London.

New York Grill & Bar

This snazzy bar is truly the crown jewel on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel. Reopening at the end of March, its view of the Tokyo skyline is one for the books.

MoonFlower Sagaya Ginza

Designed in collaboration with TeamLab, this restaurant houses a multisensory installation to complement tasty seasonal dishes. With only eight seats available, it’s important to book your spot in advance.

KYOTO

% Arabica Coffee

On your way up the long hill to Kiyomizu Temple, it might be wise to stop by % Arabica coffee for a quick pick-me-up.

Seigen-in 

  • Ryoanji Temple, Ukyō-ku, 616-8001
  • Tel: +81-75-462-4742

Ryoanji Temple is the home of Japan’s most famous rock garden, and within the premises, Seigen-in serves its visitors a traditional Buddhist meal eaten by monks. The food is vegetarian, and best enjoyed with a beautiful view of the temple garden.

Monk

You might recognise Chef Imai from Episode 5 of Chef’s Table Pizza, or perhaps you’ve flicked through his book ‘monk’ published by Phaidon in 2021. At Monk, you can expect seasonal dished served in the classic Japanese style of dining called ‘kaiseki’. Reservations are filled two months in advance, and there are only fourteen seats – so don’t waste any time.

The Sodoh

  • 366 Yasaka Kami-machi, Higashiyama-ku, 605-0827
  • thesodoh.com

Italian fine dining using seasonal local ingredients – a harmonious blend where East meets West.

OSAKA

Granknot Coffee

Located in the trendy neighbourhood of Horie, this is a dependable place for you to get your daily caffeine fix en route to an arty activity.

La Cime

  • 3-2-15 Kawaramachi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 5410048
  • la-cime.com

This splurge-worthy French restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars – infusing classic French cuisine with Japanese flavours with a modern flair.

Tonkatsu Daiki

  • 1-6-2 Higashishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0083
  • Tel: +81 6-7181-7895

This tonkatsu restaurant is a local treasure, well worth the waiting times. It might look unassuming from outside, but trust us – you won’t be able to stop thinking about these delicious fried pork cutlets for days.

Dotonbori area

Osaka is all about street food – for a really authentic local experience, head down the avenues of Dotonbori and keep an eye out for the regional dishes: takoyaki (grilled octopus), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), and Kansai udon (udon in the Kansai-region style).