Tokyo National Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Tokyo National Museum

Taito, Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo National Museum is a museum of culture and history housing national treasures from Japan and the Far East.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan) houses national treasures from Japan and around the Far East and Asia.

Its archaeological finds range from Japanese artwork and archaeological pieces to artefacts from Egypt and India. It also has a collection known as the Horyuji Treasures, made up of over 300 pieces of Buddhist art. The exhibits at the Tokyo National Museum are arranged by category.

Tokyo National Museum history

Tokyo National Museum is Japan’s oldest museum and holds an impressive and comprehensive collection of art, artefacts and information about Japan and its cultural past.

The original collection, formed in 1871 and initially housed in temporary residences, was a mixture of artistic, historical, scientific, technological, and natural-history exhibits composed mostly of Japanese objects displayed at international expositions. In 1882 the collection moved to Ueno Park, the current location.

In 1886 the museum came under the supervision of the Ministry of the Imperial Household and began showcasing Japan’s artistic heritage, moving away from the scientific and industrial aspects. From 1889 to 1900 it was called the Tokyo Imperial Museum, from 1900 to 1947 the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum, and from 1947 to 1950 the National Museum. In 1947 the museum came under the control of the Ministry of Education.

The only part of the original building complex to survive the earthquake of 1923 was the gallery known as the Hyōkeikan. In 1938 a Modernist-style building with Oriental elements was built which went on to become the nucleus of a complex of buildings erected after World War Two.

Tokyo National Museum today

The Tokyo National Museum collects, houses, and displays a comprehensive collection of artworks and antiquities from Japan as well as other Asian countries. The museum also conducts research and investigations concerning its collection of books, rubbings, and photographs, related to fine art, and makes these items available to scholars.

There are over 114,000 pieces, 87 of which are designated National Treasures and 633, including the main building, that are designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan. Around 4,000 of these artefacts are on display at any given time.

The museum regularly hosts temporary special exhibitions around fixed themes as well as its permanent collections.

The museum’s main building is large, but the museum complex comprises six buildings with many big enough to be considered museums in their own right. The complex is set within extensive grounds and the garden boasts five different traditional teahouses. Some can be booked for tea ceremonies, haiku readings, and other special events.

Getting to Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum is located in Ueno Park and is the easiest to reach from Ueno Station. Ueno Station is on the JR Yamanote Line, four stops from Tokyo Station , and a subway stop on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya and Ginza lines.


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