If quirky & entertaining and one-of-a-kind is what you look for in a museum, these are the secret spots I go to again and again because I never fail to be entertained and discover something new.
EBISU BEER MUSEUM
Satisfy your thirst for beer knowledge, then learn how to pour a perfect beer and sample Ebisu’s wares.
Open: Six days a week, closed on Mondays, on the day after national holidays, and from December 29 – January 3. Open on other holidays.
Hours: 11:00 – 19:00 (Last entry 18:30)
Walk around inside a beautifully recreated samurai-era village
Life-sized furnished rooms you can go inside • English-speaking volunteers can answer questions about daily life in Edo-era Japan
Ogle the famous pumpkins
Rotating display of Yayoi Kusama’s works • Light-up display of the famous pumpkins • Choice selection of paintings & sculpture • Selfie opportunity with iridescent pumpkin
MIRAIKAN (National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation)
Excellent interactive special exhibitions for kids & adults
Special exhibits are always worth seeing • Interactive robots • Permanent hands-on exhibits demonstrate how the internet works, crime lab science, nanotechnology, space science and more
Check their current and future offerings here.
MORI ART MUSEUM
Showcasing modern artists and designers who have interesting (and sometimes controversial) messages
Exhibits often explore the blurred lines between art and design and fashion • Exhibition schedule here
Choice exhibits of traditional Japanese art surrounded by a nice garden
Nicely curated special exhibitions of traditional Japanese art & craft • Famous painted iris screen and iris garden exhibition (May) • Garden is lovely all year round
NIHON MINKA-EN THATCH-ROOFED HOUSES
This park of restored thatch-roofed houses is an outdoor historical museum, just a short train ride from central Tokyo
23 thatch-roofed houses • You can go inside • Visitor center showing how they are made • In a beautiful park
SENGAKUJI TEMPLE MUSEUM
The museum at Sengakuji Temple – where the real 47 ronin are buried – not only has carved portraits of each warrior, it also has the actual signed confession and the receipt for Lord Kira’s head! Right outside the museum, you can light incense for the 47 ronin in the graveyard where they are buried, and see the well where they washed Lord Kira’s severed head.
SHITAMACHI MUSEUM (UENO)
Walk through a life-sized model of a Meiji-era Town
Shops and houses perfectly propped with vintage objects • Upstairs exhibits showcase memorabilia from bygone Japan and wartime life
TOBACCO & SALT MUSEUM
Surprisingly entertaining museum devoted to tobacco and salt
Life-sized salt statues & chandeliers made of salt crystals • Hilarious pipe collection • Excellent models depicting manufacturing of salt throughout Japanese history • Cigarette packages through the ages
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had