Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo — Japan Family Travel

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If you’re looking for kid-friendly art museums and galleries in Tokyo, then read on. There are loads of great are opportunities in Tokyo for kids — adults, too. This post lists up some of our favorites art museums and galleries in Tokyo that are fun to visit with the family.

Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo design festa galleries Harajuku

Galleries in Tokyo and Kid-Friendly Art Museums

Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I love exploring Tokyo with kids. In fact, I’ve been writing about it for the Japan times for years. We lived in Tokyo from 2001-2013, and we still return to Japan regularly. It’s one of our family’s favorite places in the world and a great place for anyone who loves incorporating art into their lives.

We certainly do.

We love the cultural, historical, and technological sites in Japan. We love its sports and its food.

And of course, we love wandering through neighborhoods like Ginza, Asakusa, Yoyogi and Odaiba.

Read our MEGA-post on Tokyo for Kids

We also love the many kid-friendly art museums and galleries in Tokyo. In 2008/2009, I even attempted to get involved in Japanese contemporary art scene. The results were, let’s say, mixed. That said, it cemented in my mind just how easy it was to bring kids to art spaces in Japan that were intended for adults.

After writing about Art Galleries in Tokyo for Kids for the Japan Times, I thought I should expand on it a bit. If you and your kids love art and design, then visit galleries in Tokyo. This city is an exceptional place for art and creativity, full of kid-friendly art venues. Children are welcome in almost all museums and galleries in Japan, and my kids and I have visited many of them.

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Kid-Friendly Art in Tokyo

Below I list up some of our family’s favorite kid-friendly museums and galleries in Tokyo, but this list is far from complete. There are many, many more, but these are the Tokyo galleries and art museums we most frequented. I’ve also included a few Tokyo art spaces that we think will be the most interesting and inviting to curious, creative families.

For some of the venues below, I’ve provided links to the Tokyo Art Beat website instead of the actual venue. That’s because Tokyo Art Beat often provides better English and access information than the actual venue website. I’d also recommend getting the Tokyo Art Beat app. This is a great way to find art events as well as museums and galleries in Tokyo.

Contemporary Art in Japan: A Warning

As with any art museum or art gallery, the shows and exhibits are constantly changing. I cannot guarantee that what you will see will match your family’s tastes. Nor can I guarantee that every show in these Tokyo galleries will be family-friendly.

This is art, after all. Art is often subversive.

Some exhibits may contain nudity. Others may have material or themes that some families find controversial. Art does this. Keep this in mind. Now, with this said, let’s talk about our favorite kid-friendly art museums and galleries in Tokyo. I’ve categorized them by area as best I can.

Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo Ginza Maison Hermes

GINZA: Kid-friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo

This is one of Japan’s glitziest shopping districts, but Ginza also has one of the highest concentrations of art galleries in Japan. Here are a few of the kids-friendly galleries I recommend.

Maison Hermes

Yup, this kid-friendly art space is in the upper floors of a French fashion boutique. It’s a beautiful, high-ceilinged room with lots of natural light pouring in from huge walls of glass cubes.

I should note that this is a tough art gallery to visit if you’re pushing one of those big, three-wheeled strollers (believe me). You must first walk straight through the shop, and then take a narrow elevator in the back. That said, they often have beautiful work. The Kohei Nawa deer you see above was from a show a few years ago.

Shiseido Gallery

Like Hermes above, this is another contemporary art space run by a luxury brand. Shiseido is a giant in the Japanese cosmetics industry. This is their flagship store, and it has a great kid-friendly art space in the basement. Accessed by stairs or elevator.

Ginza Graphic Gallery

Any font nerds or designer types won’t want to miss this one. Exhibits change regularly. Expect interesting examples of graphic design pulled from advertising, journalism and more. There’s an additional space in the basement, too.

Guardian Garden

This a space for student and unestablished artists to display their space trough judges and competition. It’s run by the headhunting agency, Recruit, so you don’t have to worry about anything too shocking or controversial showing. This is a basement space with regularly rotating shows of varying quality, but worth a look.

There are many Things to do in GINZA with Kids

Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo Mori Museum Roppongi

ROPPONGI: Kid-friendly art museums and galleries in Tokyo

This district of Tokyo hasn’t fully shaken off its reputation as a seedy ex-pat bar district. However, Roppongi has gone through an amazing image overhaul in the past 15 years. That’s mostly due to several major construction projects like those listed below. You could spend an entire day walking between the kid-friendly art venues in Roppongi’s “Art Triangle.”

The Mori Museum

Located on the 35th floor of the Mori Building, this Mori Museum holds major exhibitions, such as the huge traveling Andy Warhol retrospective. The space is beautiful and close to one of the most scenic spots in Tokyo: the Mori building’s Sky Deck.

Your admission to the Mori Museum also gives you access to this 360-degree observation deck. Here you can see my favorite view of the city at night. If possible, time your visit around sunset. The Mori Museum is open until 10pm every night except Tuesdays.

Galleries Piramide

This small shopping center is only a few minutes’ walk from the Mori building. There are several internationally-regarded galleries worth visiting. Check out Wako Works or Art and Ota Fine Arts.

21_21 Design Sight

One of our favorite kid-friendly art museums in Tokyo. 21_21 Design Site focuses on the creativity, innovation, and art that comes from good design. Exhibits often sprawl out around one thematic element, such as rice, bones, and chocolate. They use everything from photography and industrial design to video and candy wrappers.

Conveniently, there is a playground and open field around the corner. There are also several affordable restaurants and takeout places in the Tokyo Midtown building next door.

The National Art Center

This beautiful undulating building has many individual galleries and venues. When you visit, there will likely be several exhibits happening at once. Some will be internationally regarded, such as traveling exhibitions by people like Renee Magritte, Yayoi Kusama, and Salvador Dali. Others may be a local painter’s guild who have rented a space of their own.

One exhibit not to miss is annual Japan Media Arts Festival. This exhibit showcases some of the latest innovations in video, animation, gaming, computer engineering, and industrial design.

Want more fun things to do in Roppongi with Kids?

Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo 3331 arts chiyoda stuffed animal room

East Tokyo: Kid-friendly art museums and galleries

Okay, so I’ve lumped these Tokyo museums and galleries together simply because they’re all on the east side. However, that doesn’t mean they’re all within walking distance of each other like in Roppongi.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (a.k.a. The MOT)

This massive complex has enough space for several global exhibits and still house its great permanent collection. Out of the major, state-funded museums, this is possibly the most kid-friendly art museum in Tokyo.

The only problem with the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art is that it’s a little out of the way for most people. It’s surrounded by a huge park, so there are playgrounds and plenty of green space. However, there isn’t a train station nearby. It’s a brisk 15-minute walk alone, and much longer if you have kids that want to stop here and there in the park. If you’re only in town for a week or two, I wouldn’t choose this place unless the exhibit is something you can’t miss.

Please note: The MOT  is presently closed for renovation and scheduled to reopen in May 2017.

3331 Arts Chiyoda

As much a community center as an art space, 3331 Arts Chiyoda is built into an old junior high school. The main art space occupies the first floor. On the second floor, what were once classrooms are now small gallery spaces. I’ve seen an exhibit in the gymnasium, as well.

This is a very kid-friendly gallery space, with regular workshops happening here and there.

SNAC / Mujin-to Production

This is the exhibition space for a stable of young contemporary artists. They are (in my opinion) inconsistent, but frequently brilliant and worth further investigation. They also sometimes fall into the category of “is this art?2 by some people, but just too interesting to ignore. The Chim↑Pom collective try to provoke the establishment, filming themselves at the Fukushima Nuclear plant and tricking hundreds of crows to swarm over government buildings.

Another Mujin-to member, Lyota Yagi, once made records out of ice and played them as they melted. I thought it was brilliant.

Find more Things to do in East Tokyo with Kids

Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo 21_21 Design Site

Harajuku & Omotesando: Kid-friendly galleries in Tokyo

Step out of the station here, and there are exciting, “only in Japan” things to see and do in every direction. There is plenty to do in Harajuku and Omotesando, but here I’ll just mention two art-related activities.

Design Festa Galleries

This gallery space is worth visiting if only for the building, which looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. However, there is frequently interesting art and design inside, as well.

The Design Festa Galleries are often a venue for young art school grads. That means that it is frequently colorful, cute, sparkly, and subversive — often at the same time. The artists themselves are often sitting there hoping for a sale, so strike up a chat if you like.

Between the two gallery wings, you’ll find a good okonomiyaki restaurant, as well as a bar with drinks and snacks. I love this place, and my kids do, too.

Espace Louis Vuitton

On the 7th floor is Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in Japan, you’ll find their own gallery space. High windows on two sides give you a great view of the area. The curator makes use of the ample daylight, by choosing artists who use shiny or colorful elements in their work.

Our favorite exhibit to date was a single Ernesto Neto piece in 2012. My daughter and I spent an entire afternoon lounging inside this thing.

There’s more Things to do in Harajuku, Yoyogi,  & Omotesando with Kids!

Continued below…

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Other Kid-Friendly Art Museums & Galleries in Tokyo

There are so many other kid-friendly art spaces in the city, but most of my recommendations are spread out around the city. Here I list up some more.

The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

This is a beautiful art space built into what was once a private mansion. Not the usual white cube-style art space, this is art in a home. There is a beautiful back garden and cafe, which can be a nice place to relax with a coffee. The kids can blow off some steam in the grass, as well.

However, like the MOT mentioned above, the Hara Museum is a little out of the way for most people: about a 15-minute walk from Shinagawa station. The place is close if you’re staying in a hotel in the Shinagawa area, though, and it’s a super quick taxi ride from the station.

Watari Museum of Contemporary Art (aka “Watari-um”)

We’ve seen some great exhibits at Watari-um. For example, French Artist JR has had two shows here. In the last exhibit we saw, all visitors received HUGE digital portraits of themselves.

About a block away is a fun restaurant we like called World Breakfast All Day. The name describes it all. For example, let’s say this month they’re serving Iranian breakfast. Then next month it’s Peruvian, and so on. They also serve English breakfast year round.

Scai the Bathhouse

Yes, this kid-friendly gallery is built into an old Japanese bathhouse. Where there once were tubs and steam rooms, now you’ll find contemporary art exhibits from the likes of Anish Kapoor and Julian Opie.

Scai the Bathhouse is at the edge of the Yanaka neighborhood. One of the few areas spared by bombing in WWII, Yakana has an old-Japan feel to it and it well worth wandering around. That includes the Yanaka cemetery.

The Ghibli Museum

I’ve saved the best for last. No, this isn’t a contemporary art gallery. And no, it isn’t a museum where you’ll see the masterworks of Picasso or Rembrandt. Instead, this place is dedicated to one of Japan’s legends of animation: Hayao Miyazaki.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with Japanese anime, you might still know of Miyazaki’s movies. Films like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and many more.

Miyazaki himself designed the Ghibli Museum. The meandering, “Hogwarts” type of layout is intentional. There is no start or finish to the exhibits. You’re meant to wander.

The museum showcases many of the characters from his films, but also the process in which they were created. It also has lots of interactive exhibitions that explain the art, science, and mechanics of old-school animation.

This place will be loved by everyone in your family — even if you’ve never even heard of Miyazaki or his movies.

Want More Fun Things to Do in Tokyo With Kids?

I’ve written a lot about how much fun Japan can be for traveling families. You can find all of my posts on Tokyo at a dedicated page, but here are a few about specific Tokyo neighborhoods, including those mentioned in this post:

Kid-Friendly Art Museums and Galleries in Tokyo 21_21 design site rice exhibit

Know any other good museums & galleries in Tokyo?

Where would you recommend? Have you been to any of these? Which did you enjoy most? Which would you like to see? Tell us in the comments below, or contact me directly.

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