Tokyo National Museum 東京国立博物館
Located at the north end of Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum houses the world's richest collection of Japanese art.
Of the five buildings that make up the Tokyo National Museum, two draw particular attention. With hybrid architecture half way between East and West, the main building, the honkan, is located after the National Science Museum, identifiable by its monumental statue of a whale. It contains collections of Japanese art (while other buildings are devoted to Asian art) organized by period and by theme. There are beautiful masks and sculptures, not to mention the finest swords forged in Japan.
The section concerning painting is one of the most fascinating, as it traces the evolution of the techniques of printmaking and presents the most talented Japanese artists, many of whom are little-known. The visit is pleasant as the venue is rarely crowded although school groups can sometimes be present. The second building worth a visit is the horyuji or the "gallery of treasures" at the entrance of the complex of the Tokyo National Museum, to the left of the honkan. It presents works that the Horyuji Temple in Nara donated to the Imperial Family in 1878. The exhibits, incredibly precious, all belong to the Treasures of National Heritage, a special distinction given to the quintessence of Japanese cultural heritage since 1897.
The lack of signs in English remains a major drawback of this museum. This weakness is largely offset by the showcasing of such incredible works, most of which have rarely been seen in Western museums.