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Art and Culture in Tokyo

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State Guest House
The Tokyo State Guest House (迎賓館, Geihinkan) is one of two state guest houses of the Japanese government alongside another one in Kyoto. Contained within the Akasaka Imperial Estate in central Tokyo, the Tokyo State Guest House serves to accommodate world leaders, diplomats and other guests of honor during their visits to Japan. When not in use, sections of the grand estate are open to the public, with visitors able to explore some of the opulent rooms, picturesque gardens and the Japanese-style annex.
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The Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments
The Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture is a must-see if you are living in or just visiting the city. Located close to Hamamatsu Station in the Seminar & Exchange Center of the Act City complex, the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments (Tel: 053 451 1128; 400 yen) showcases the city's long connection with the production of musical instruments by exhibiting a collection of diverse instruments from all over the world. The first Japanese European-style piano was made in Hamamatsu over 100 years ago and now the city is one of the world's foremost production centers for instruments made by Yamaha and Kawai, including pianos, synthesizers and electronic keyboards. With help from Yamaha, the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments has gathered over 1300 musical instruments, some of them extremely rare and valuable pieces.
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Tokugawa Art Museum
During the Edo Period (1600-1868), Nagoya served as the seat of the Owari, one of the three major branches of the ruling Tokugawa family. The family amassed great wealth that was only surpassed by four of the 200 feudal domains of the Edo Period. The Tokugawa Art Museum (徳川美術館, Tokugawa Bijutsukan) was built on the grounds of the Owari's former feudal residence and preserves and exhibits several of their treasures including samurai armour and swords, tea utensils, noh masks and costumes, poems, scrolls and maps.
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Nagoya Castle
In 1610, Ieyasu Tokugawa began construction of Nagoya Castle as a castle residence for his son Yoshinao. It was lost to flames during WWII, but the large donjon (approx. 48 m) with golden "shachi" ornaments adorning its roof and the small donjon (approx. 24 m) was rebuilt in 1959. In the large, five-story donjon, sliding door murals which are an important cultural property and historical information are displayed; and on the third to fifth floors, you can see a full-scale replica of a golden shachi ornament, experience the pulling of stones used in the castle's construction as well as riding in a palanquin, and come to know the sights and sounds of life within the castle and the castle town. Anyone can enjoy themselves as they learn the history of Nagoya Castle and the city it resides in.
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Nagoya City Science Museum
A new building housing "Brother Earth", a 35-meter-diameter dome planetarium, was opened in March 2011. The planetarium is the largest in the world. Also, be sure to check out our four large-scale exhibitions featuring an aurora film shown in a -30°C and a 9-meter tall manmade tornado! These attractions are highly entertaining and allow museum visitors to experience the power of nature. Additionally, the building itself acts as an exhibit through the use of solar power, green walls, visible earthquake-resistant structures and elevator mechanisms.
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Ohara
Ohara (大原, Ōhara) is a rural town nestled in the mountains of northern Kyoto, about one hour from Kyoto Station, but still technically located within Kyoto's city limits. Ohara is best known for Sanzenin Temple and particularly popular in mid November during the autumn leaf season, which typically occurs about one week earlier than in central Kyoto.
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Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera ("Pure Water Temple") is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall's pure waters. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools within Japanese Buddhism, but formed its own Kita Hosso sect in 1965. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizudera is the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the atmospheric Higashiyama District. The many shops and restaurants in the area have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries, and products on sale range from local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets and pickles to the standard set of souvenirs. The Higashiyama district together with Kiyomizudera, Yasaka Shrine and other temples in the area, have special evening illuminations during the annual Hanatoro event held in mid March. Kiyomizudera also has special illuminations during the autumn leaf season in the second half of November.
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Gion
Gion (祇園) is Kyoto's most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain. Gion attracts tourists with its high concentration of traditional wooden machiya merchant houses. Due to the fact that property taxes were formerly based upon street frontage, the houses were built with narrow facades only five to six meters wide, but extend up to twenty meters in from the street. The most popular area of Gion is Hanami-koji Street from Shijo Avenue to Kenninji Temple. A nice (and expensive) place to dine, the street and its side alleys are lined with preserved machiya houses many of which now function as restaurants, serving Kyoto style kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine) and other types of local and international meals.
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Pontocho
Pontocho (先斗町, Pontochō) is one of Kyoto's most atmospheric dining areas. It is a narrow alley running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of Kamogawa River. The alley is packed with restaurants on both sides offering a wide range of dining options from inexpensive yakitori to traditional and modern Kyoto cuisine, foreign cuisine and highly exclusive establishments that require the right connections and a fat wallet. Most of the restaurants along the eastern side of the alley overlook Kamogawa River. From May to September, many of them build temporary platforms over the flowing water where patrons can dine out in the open air. Known as kawayuka, this type of dining was developed as a way to beat the summer heat and is a great way to try some traditional Kyoto cuisine while taking in the cooling effects of the flowing water and the lively summer atmosphere.
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Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital's move to Kyoto in 794. While the primary reason most foreign visitors come to Fushimi Inari Shrine is to explore the mountain trails, the shrine buildings themselves are also attractive. At the shrine's entrance stands the Romon Gate, which was donated in 1589 by the famous leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Behind stands the shrine's main hall (honden) where visitors should pay respect to the resident deity by making a small offering.
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Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle (二条城, Nijōjō) was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle's palace buildings 23 years later and further expanded the castle by adding a five story castle keep. Nijo Castle can be divided into three areas: the Honmaru (main circle of defense), the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense) and some gardens that encircle the Honmaru and Ninomaru. The entire castle grounds and the Honmaru are surrounded by stone walls and moats. Visitors to Nijo Castle enter the castle grounds through a large gate in the east. English audio guides are available for rent at a kiosk just inside the gate. Venturing further into the castle will bring you to the Chinese style Karamon Gate, the entrance to the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense), where the castle's main attraction, the Ninomaru Palace is located.
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Kinkakuji Temple
The image of the temple richly adorned in gold leaf reflects beautifully in the water of Kyokochi, the mirror pond. It is perhaps the most widely-recognized image of Kyoto. Seen reflected in the adjoining "mirror pond" with its small islands of rock and pine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion," is a breathtaking must-see. The building's first purpose was to serve the retiring Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1409) as a residence. The gold-leaf-adorned building was converted into a Zen temple shortly after his death. In an event that was later fictionalized by the renowned author Yukio Mishima, a 21-year-old monk burned Kinkakuji down in 1950. The temple was rebuilt in 1955 and continues to function as a storehouse of sacred relics. The temple's garden is also a scenic delight and contains in its grounds a charming teahouse.
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Ryoanji Temple
Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺, Ryōanji) is the site of Japan's most famous rock garden, which attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Originally an aristocrat's villa during the Heian Period, the site was converted into a Zen temple in 1450 and belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, whose head temple stands just a kilometer to the south. As for the history of Ryoanji's famous rock garden, the facts are less certain. The garden's date of construction is unknown and there are a number of speculations regarding its designer. The garden consists of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. An interesting feature of the garden's design is that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.
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Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle, or “Osaka-jo” in Japanese, is certainly one of the most famous landmarks in Japan, and for good reason. This five-story castle is one of the most visually spectacular creations in the country, with a history that dates back almost 450 years! Visitors to Osaka Castle can enter inside, which currently operates a historical museum, for a small fee (15 years and younger can enter for free), with group discounts available. On each floor inside the castle are a wide variety of artefacts detailing the extensive history of Osaka and the castle itself. While not all the artefact information is available in English, there are leaflets available that explain much of the exhibits. On the top floor visitors can catch a breathtaking view of the surrounding areas, taking in the parks and cityscapes.
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Osaka Museum of History
The Osaka Museum of History opened in 2003 in a tall building next to NHK Osaka and just across the street from Osaka Castle. The building offers excellent views of the castle from its top floors. The museum exhibits are visually oriented with several large models. They chronicle the city's history, beginning in ancient times when Osaka served as Japan's first capital and site of the Naniwa Palace and ending with exhibits on the city's bustling shopping arcades of the early Showa Period. The museum's collection is set up on the upper floors of the building while the lower floors are occupied by a restaurant, shop and spacious lobby. Museum visitors first take the elevator to the top floor and then follow the exhibition route down.
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Osaka National Museum of Art
The National Museum of Art, Osaka (国立国際美術館, Kokuritsu Kokusai Bijutsukan) occupies two underground floors on Nakanoshima Island in central Osaka. The museum focuses on Japanese and foreign contemporary art, with exhibitions from the museum collection and special exhibitions. The museum's current building was opened in 2007 and was designed to represent the growth and shape of a bamboo plant. The facility was formerly housed in the Expo Museum of Fine Arts, built for the Osaka Expo in 1970.
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Sumiyoshi Shrine
In Osaka, the shrine is known affectionately as "Sumiyossan." Every year, from January 1st to 3rd, the shrine welcomes more than 2 million people for Hatsumode, the traditional first shrine visit of the year. The head shrine for Japan's approximately 2,300 Sumiyoshi shrines, Sumiyoshi Taisha is the most important shrine in the Osaka area. Praying to the gods here is believed to ensure maritime safety, as well as good luck in farming, waka poetry, martial arts, and sumo wrestling, and to ward off disasters of all kinds. Built more than 1,800 years ago, the buildings are arranged to resemble a fleet of ships headed out to sea. The shrine was built in an architectural style known as Sumiyoshi-zukuri, the oldest style used in shrine construction, and is registered as a national treasure. Sumiyoshi Taisha has more than 30 auxiliary shrines, as well as a number of festivals and rituals, including Sumiyoshi Matsuri. The grounds of the shrine are carefully preserved as a national treasure and important cultural property for their architectural and cultural value.
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Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum
Located in Osafune, a town that once flourished as a major produce of Japanese swords, the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum is one of a limited number of sword museums and features a variety of Japanese swords on display. Visitors can learn about the history and manufacturing process for Japanese swords as well as experience the beauty and power of the swords up close. The museum features several special exhibitions throughout the year that combine animations and video games, making this a popular destination for sword fans from across the country. In the adjacent workshop, visitors can see the skill of Japanese sword artisans, including the process where tamahagane, steel made from iron sand, is heated to 1300°C and then hammered to make a plate.
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Ohara Museum of Art
The symbol of the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, this private museum features Western works of art in an eye-catching building styled after a Greek temple. Based on Ohara Magosaburo’s collection of Western art, Ohara Museum of Art features a large collection of world-famous paintings and work such as one of El Greco’s “Annunciation” and Monet’s “Water Lilies.” The museum also features a pond with water lilies propagated from Monet’s residence.
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Oita Prefectural Art Museum
The Oita Prefectural Art Museum is located on Japan’s island of Kyushu. The modern and contemporary Japanese art collection is impressive; however, the biggest highlight of the museum is its elaborate modern architecture designed by noted architect Shigeru Ban.
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Hokkaido Governor's Official Residence
Built in 1936 as a vacation home for Mitsui Partnership Company, this residence became Hokkaido’s property in 1953. It has since been used or various meetings and other functions.
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Sapporo Clock Tower
The Clock Tower (時計台, Tokeidai) is a symbol of Sapporo. The building was constructed during the early period of Sapporo's development in 1878 as a drill hall of the Sapporo Agricultural College. In 1881 a clock purchased from Boston was installed. Today, the Clock Tower serves as a museum with displays about the building's history and Sapporo on the first floor. On the second floor are displays about the clock and a spacious ceremony hall that calls to mind the simple buildings of the colonial American Midwest.
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The Hokkaido Shiki Theatre
The Hokkaido Shiki Theatre is used exclusively by Japan’s famous Shiki Theatre Company. It is famous for long-running musical the Lion King, which has exceeded over 10,000 performances, making it the most performed play in the history of Japan, as well as many other musicals that attract people of all ages including adults and children
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Historic Village of Hokkaido
The Historic Village of Hokkaido (開拓の村, Kaitaku no Mura) is an open air museum in the suburbs of Sapporo. It exhibits about 60 typical buildings from all over Hokkaido, dating from the Meiji and Taisho Periods (1868 to 1926), the era when Hokkaido's development was carried out on a large scale. There are four different sections: a town, fishing village, farm village and a mountain village.
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Shiroi Koibito Park
Shiroi Koibito Park is a theme park by Ishiya, a local chocolate company. The company's flagship product is the Shiroi Koibito cookie, which consists of two thin butter cookies and a layer of white chocolate in between. It is one of the most famous souvenirs from Hokkaido. The park consists of a free area with a shop, cafe and restaurant and a paid area with various chocolate related exhibits and, most interestingly, a few large windows through which visitors can observe the cookie production process in the factory. It is also possible to create your own cookies in hands-on workshops. Another part of the Shiroi Koibito Park is a soccer field that serves as the practice ground for Consadole Sapporo, the local J-League soccer team.
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Asahikawa City Museum
Asahikawa City Museum displays the Ainu culture and abundant materials related to it in Hokkaido. With a large number of person models, It can reproduce in full of presence the state of traditional life of Ainu people. A realistic model exhibit emerging in a dark place is a dynamic and powerful full mark. Valuable materials of northern ethnic groups other than Ainu people are also exhibited. And, "Time Maze Yukinbo" which displays the appearance of the people's lives and children's play in the Showa 30s and 40' s after the war in Japan, mainly in Asahikawa, is also popular.
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Snow Crystal Museum
It's like being in a dream! Extraordinary experience! The castle-like appearance of medieval Europe incorporates the elegant Byzantine architectural style everywhere, and the interior is all original design in the image of snow. The Snow Museum was created with the image of Japan's most beautiful the snowflake that falls in the Daisetsuzan system from the building to the exhibition. The Snow Museum was built in May 1991 using the European Byzantine style. The appearance that uses curves such as dome and arch gives an elegant impression. The Snow Museum is located on the hills of Asahikawa City, and the view that overlooks Mt. Daisetsu and the city and the appearance in harmony with the scenery of the four seasons attract visitors.
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Hokkaidoritsu Asahikawa Bijutsukan (Art Museum)
Hokkaidoritsu Asahikawa Bijutsukan is located in Tokiwa Koen, a park in Asahikawa city in northern Hokkaido. A major feature of this museum is its extensive collection of artworks crafted from wood, reflecting its location in Asahikawa, a city whose encompassing forests have given rise to a flourishing woodworking industry based on furniture manufacturing. Many works by artists connected to this region are also housed in the museum.
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Reimeikan Museum
The Reimeikan Museum (黎明館) is dedicated to local history and culture. On three spacious floors, it presents a wide variety of exhibits that cover the span of Kagoshima's history from ancient to modern times. There are a few interesting models, such as a large diorama of downtown Kagoshima at the beginning of the Showa Period (1926-1989) and a small scale model of a village from the middle ages. The museum was built on the former site of the local castle, known as Kagoshima or Tsurumaru Castle, and is surrounded by parts of the former moat and stone walls. The museum and castle ruins are located at the base of Mount Shiroyama, which literally means "castle mountain" in Japanese.
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National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts
The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts is a national music agency that has been established to transmit and develop traditional music and dance. It is conducting various activities related to gukak performances and gukak itself.
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Seoul Museum of History
The Seoul Museum of History is the only museum in Korea that represents the city’s history and culture. Since its establishment on the former site of Gyeonghuigung Palace in 2002, the museum has offered visitors the chance to experience 600 years of Seoul’s history and culture through interactive exhibitions. The three-story museum is divided thematically into three exhibition areas, including a special exhibition area, a permanent exhibition area and a hall that exhibits collections donated by the public. The museum offers accessible and interactive exhibitions to the public with various hands-on programs. For example, visitors are allowed to touch and explore the exhibits on display, which are replicas of originals in the museum. In addition, the museum offers the U-Exhibit Guidance System, an automatic translator (various languages are available) for visitors, which makes every tour convenient and interesting.
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Shanghai Postal Museum
One of the rare free museums in town, the original Shanghai Postal Museum in Hongkou well explains the history of the postal service in China. Venture up to the beautiful baroque rooftop to find a sculpted garden with a Romanesque clock tower and one of the city’s best low-level views: looking west up Suzhou Creek and east towards the Pudong skyline with the Art Deco Broadway Mansions in front.
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Sanshan Guildhall
Hang out in the old haunt of Fujian fruit merchants at the Sanshan Guildhall – one of many guildhalls to pop-up in the city for traders to seek camaraderie. Though it’s been shifted 30 metres south from its original position, this relatively late addition (built in 1909) is also the only well-preserved guildhall from the Qing dynasty and currently serves as a museum. 1551 Zhongshan Nan Lu, Bansongyuan Lu.
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Shanghai Grand Theatre
The spectacular ten-storey Shanghai Grand Theatre showcases a variety of musical, dance and dramatic acts under it's instantly recognisable curved roof in People’s Square. The theatre itself is divided into three separate auditoriums, the largest of which, The Lyric Theatre is home to ballet performances such as Swan Lake, orchestral concerts and traditional Peking opera from the China National Peking Opera Company. The box office is open from 9am-7pm daily, see schedule for opening times of individual shows.