Exploring galleries and museums enriches travel plans, captivating and leaving a lasting impression on those who engage with their immersive displays. This holds particularly true when journeying through Japan, where the architectural marvels themselves reflect the deep creativity of the nation’s artistic souls. A tour centered around art in Japan can guide you through stunning natural landscapes, rich traditions, and the exhilarating realm of avant-garde artistic expressions.
Here’s a quick guide to some of Japan’s most captivating art exhibits.
In Tokyo, you can find galleries showcasing celebrated Japanese artists, including Takashi Murakami with his vibrant floral portraits and the Ghibli Museum, a must-visit for fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s globally acclaimed films. Notably, Tokyo’s teamLab Planets earned the prestigious title of “Asia’s Leading Attraction” at the 2023 World Travel Awards. This immersive experience is a selfie wonderland that makes artists of us all. Colours rain down and borders melt as guests journey through surrealistic soundscapes enveloped in psychedelic landscapes. Here you can perch in a nest in space while being visually blasted by a laser light show, or wade in a pool of ethereal lily pads while refracting light with your hands.
Naoshima, known as the “Art Island” in Kagawa Prefecture, boasts numerous open-air exhibits that appear on the shore, like Yayoi Kusama’s iconic black-dotted yellow pumpkin. Galleries, sculpture gardens, contemporary art museums and architectural projects are humming with life. In Les Archives de Coeurs, stand in the Heart Room to hear Christian Boltanski’s recordings of heartbeats from around the world. The Teshima Art Museum resembles a water droplet. It is a tranquil shell harmonizing nature, art and architecture, with openings for light, wind and flowing water from rain and idle rice terraces. The Chichu Art Museum houses diverse works to admire, from Claude Monet to James Turrell. It’s a true artist’s haven.
The Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane Prefecture has been recognized by the Journal of Japanese Gardening as Japan’s number-one garden for the past twenty consecutive years. Every pebble, every leaf, every blade of grass is immaculately maintained. Along the winding path, each vantage point is more breathtaking than the one before. The long narrow windows of the garden tea house appear as poetic hanging scrolls. You could stare at this landscape all day knowing that you’re gazing upon Japan’s most captivating display of horticulture.
Aomori Prefecture’s Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse houses a gallery of illuminated floats from the Aomori Nebuta festival. Incredibly elaborate constructions depicting mythical warriors in dramatic battle scenes are made of intricately designed paper lanterns that represent a thousand years of ancient Japanese legends. The floats are massive, and exhibits introduce you to every aspect of this renowned festival. Interactive experiences include taiko drumming and a “Haneto” experience, where you can dance to Hayashi music like a high-energy Haneto dancer. There is also a hands-on Nebuta experience in which you can feel what a real Nebuta is like, or make your own digital design on a touch-screen and watch it come to life.
Nestled amidst a serene natural setting, the Sapporo Art Museum showcases the creations of local artists and actively delves into art-focused research. Adjacent to it, the Sapporo Art Park adorns the undulating green scenery with sculptures that transform their appearance depending on your perspective and the season, offering a leisurely walk through the park that’s both visually immersive and intellectually enriching. Both the garden and museum feature special and permanent exhibits of sculptures, as well as musical and theatrical productions, and educational projects in which you can experience traditional Japanese crafts such as pottery, dying, weaving, woodworking and block prints.