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The Non-Tourist’s Guide To Tokyo

As the capital of Japan, Tokyo is famous for a lot of things – food, shopping districts, robot sightings, impressive architectural landscapes, the world’s busiest crosswalk, and the ever-loyal Hachiko.

While everyone’s busy chasing the famous Sakura blooms at either the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or at Yoyogi Park, we found an alternate route that led us to an equally exquisite find— probably even better than the cherry blossoms we were all expecting to see. Hiding in plain sight were art galleries and museums that spoke of traditional and contemporary Japanese art – easily the best way to get to know the city beyond its superficial glitz and glamour.

We’ve mapped out a detailed Tokyo design itinerary for those who seek to surprise themselves with a lot of history and inspiration.

Note: Wear your most comfortable shoes. There might be a lot of walking.


First stop: Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

Located in Shinagawa, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art is the former residence of business tycoon Kunizo Hara, erstwhile chairman of Japan Airlines. It was designed by architect Jin Watanabe during the 1930s and was converted to a museum in 1979.

An apparent example of early modern Japanese architecture, the Hara Museum still has the air of a luxury home with its elegant wooden floors and wide windows—only now, it houses a permanent collection from artists like sculptor Tatsuo Miyajima, appropriation artist Yasumasa Morimura and painter Yoshitomo Nara. It also holds exhibitions from up-and-coming artists from time to time.

The museum also has its own café that comes complete with a view of the old back garden—it sets the perfect tone if you want a little quiet time after devouring the artworks.



Hara Museum of Contemporary Art #tokyo #museum #art #haramuseum

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#yoshitomonara #haramuseum #tokyo

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How to get there:

From the Shinagawa station, take the Takanawa Exit. You can either ride a taxi for a 5-minute ride or take the TAN no. 96 bus for Gotanda Station, get off at the first stop (Gotenyama) and walk for 3 minutes to the museum. You will see the museum on your left.

The museum is open from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on regular days and closes at 8:00 pm on Wednesdays.

Admission fee: ¥1,100



Second stop: Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

Also a former residential structure, the Teien Art Museum was built in 1933. It used to be the home of Prince Yasuhiko Asaka and his spouse, Princess Nobuko. Fresh from their travels in France, they decided to pattern the architecture of their residence after the golden age of Art Deco. They also commissioned French artist Henri Rapin to design the interiors of the principal rooms. Because of its architectural merits, it was hailed as a National Important Cultural Property in 2015.

The current exhibit curated by the museum is entitled Walls that Talk: Stories from the Former Prince Asaka Residence, which shows records, memorabilia and anecdotes associated with the former Prince during the time of his residency.





#???????? #?? #?? #teienartmuseum #fullofgreen #earlysummer

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#???????? #????? #????? #??????????? #teienartmuseum #artdeco

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How to get there:

Taxi drivers usually know their way around the city, the only hitch is the language barrier. You can show them a map and the surrounding establishments just in case.

By Train:

From the Hara Museum, walk for about 10 minutes to the Osaki Station, board the train on Yamanote Line bound for Shibuya and then alight the train at the Meguro Station. Take the east exit and then walk for another 5 minutes to reach the museum.

The museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Note that the museum is closed every second and fourth Wednesday of the month.

Admission fees vary depending on the exhibition you wish to see.



Third stop: Mori Arts Museum

The Mori Arts Museum opened in 2003 at the top of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. Aiming to target a global audience, the museum showcases a broad assemblage of contemporary art from both native and international artists. Cutting-edge visual arts, architecture and design made from a global perspective is at the core of the museum.

The Mori Arts Museum is currently showing Invisible Cities, a curated exhibit which features an imagined representation of ideal societies and urban settlements. Departing from conventional concepts, works from Lee Bul, Jagannath Panda and Kurokawa Kisho all depict Utopian architecture that’s sure to inspire idealists.







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How to get there:

From the Teien Art Museum, walk back to the Meguro Station. Get on the train to Shibuya on the Yamanote Line and then hop off at the Ebisu Station. Change lines from Yamanote to Hibiya Line going to Kita-Koshigaya and then alight at Roppongi Station. It will take you about 5 to 7 minutes to reach Mori Tower where the museum is located at the 53rd floor.

The museum is open from 10:00 am to 10:00pm on regular days and closes at 5:00 pm on Tuesdays.

Admission fee: ¥1,800



Fourth stop: Nezu Museum

The Nezu Museum was built to conserve the collection of Nezu Kaichiro, former president of Tobu Railway and an art enthusiast. His sons built a foundation dedicated to him and opened the museum in 1941, a year after his passing. A great part of the property—including the galleries, the garden and the tea house—was burned down during the World War II. Exhibitions in the gallery resumed in 1946, after extensive renovations and expansion.

Among the collection are Kaichiro’s acquisitions from his twenties—items ranging from sculptures, paintings and calligraphy, to textiles and archaeological specimens.

Aside from the impressive display of art pieces, you can also walk around the museum’s garden for a breath of fresh air in the middle of an urban jungle.




#nezumuseum #shadow #peace

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“Irises” by Ogata Korin (1658-1716) Ink and color on gold-foiled paper. Ogata Korin is the mid Edo period painter and designer in Japan. This is one of Japanese Treasures. In fact, this painting is not just a painting but a painting of byobu which is used as a decorative screen or room divider. There is different version collected in the Metropolitan Museum, NY. It’s on view in Nezu Museum, Tokyo. When we left the exhibition room and took a walk in the garden, we find irises bloomed (pic. 2,3). Then we brought Japanese cakes which shaped an iris and a rose for #honeygroveteapartytuesday ?We hope you enjoy these various irises???? #ogatakorin #irises #byobu #nationaltresure #exhibition #nezumuseum #art #japanesecake #yummy #happytime #gardenwalk #????? #???? #??? #????? #??? #?????? #???? #??? #???? #????? #???? #??

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How to get there:

The Nezu Museum is just a 5-minute drive from the Mori Art Museum. Take a cab instead of going over the complicated train lines that will take you around 17 minutes before reaching Nezu. Hail a cab!

The museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Admission fee: ¥1,300