Teamlab Tokyo & Beyond – Amazing Tokyo Art Galleries & Art Museums

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If you are a fan of creativity, then put these Tokyo art galleries on your Japan travel itinerary. There are hundreds of galleries and museums in Tokyo, and these are a few of the best. Most art galleries in Tokyo are kid-friendly, but everyone can get something out of them. The Tokyo art galleries and museums listed here are some of our favorites, and they’re good for families, solo travelers and more. You’ll also find info on the teamLab Tokyo galleries, which are some of the most popular Tokyo art installations ever. 

teamlab tokyo and contemporary Art in Tokyo - Best Tokyo Art Galleries & Museums

Top Tokyo Art Galleries and Museums

Many art lovers visiting Japan want to see the teamLab Tokyo spaces, and I think they should. But if you’re interested in contemporary art and design, then there are a lot more Tokyo galleries and art spaces to see. I’ve been writing about Tokyo for the Japan times since 2001, but what most people don’t know is that before I wrote the Child’s Play column, I was on the arts and culture pages. It was great. I was able to interview cool musicians and see lots of great shows. There were DJs like Diplo (fun!) and Grandmaster Flash (not so fun). Then there were bands like Ben Harper, Luna, and Lightning Bolt.

After a while, I wanted to dive into the city’s thriving art scene, so I started writing about Tokyo gallery openings from the likes of Nawa Kohei (who I love) and Terry Richardson (who I don’t). During the years we lived in the capital (2001-2013), I never ran out of Tokyo art galleries and exhibitions to see. It’s one of my favorite things to do in Japan and was a great way to incorporate art into our family’s life.

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Not Just Kid-Friendly: Tokyo Art Galleries for All

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

Contemporary Art in Japan: A Warning

In 2008/2009, I got involved in the 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. Having said that, I feel I should post a small warning. As with any art venue, the exhibits at Tokyo art galleries are constantly changing. I cannot guarantee that what you see will match your 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.

Don’t worry: the teamLab Tokyo venues are all spectacle and nothing harsh or controversial. You can bring anyone to teamLab Borderless or teamLab Planet with ease. However, some Tokyo art museum exhibits may contain nudity. We don’t mind our kids seeing this (within reason) but I should mention it. Similarly,  Tokyo gallery exhibits occasionally have material or themes that some people may find controversial. Art does this. Keep this in mind. Now, with this said, let’s talk about our favorite art museums and galleries in Tokyo. I’ve categorized them by area as best I can, but I’ve listed the three most popular places at the top.

Art in Tokyo: The 3 Most Popular Places

Before we get to the full list of Tokyo art galleries and museums, let’s talk about the three most popular venues for art in Tokyo. These are not Japanese galleries with cutting-edge contemporary works. Nor are they the massive Tokyo museums housing masterworks by the likes of Picasso or Hokusai. Instead, most people seeking art in Tokyo head for something more modern. There is the digital spectacle of teamLab Tokyo projects, and then there is the hand-drawn animation of Hayao Miyazaki. 

teamLab Tokyo Projects – Amazing Digital Art in Tokyo

Japanese digital art collective teamLab (yes, that’s how they spell it) creates completely immersive experiences of light, sound, and color. With both venues, it’s best to buy tickets in advance so that you don’t have to line up and wait. The two exhibits are about 15 minutes apart using the Yurikamome Monorail.

teamLab Borderless (Odaiba)

Teamlab Tokyo Odaiba - Teamlab Borderless VS Teamlab Planets

At over 10,000 square meters, teamLab Borderless is the bigger teamLab Tokyo exhibit. Hundreds of computers, projectors, and mirrors utilize tens of thousands of lights to create an ever-changing menagerie of color and sound. 

Buy Now: teamLab Borderless Tickets via Get Your Guide

Buy Now: teamLab Borderless Tickets via Klook

teamLab Planets (Toyosu)

Teamlab Tokyo - Teamlab Planets VS Teamlab Borderless

teamLab Planets is a second exhibit by teamLab Tokyo in the capital. While not as diverse is it quite spectacular and immersive…literally. One part of teamLab Planets involves walking through digitally animated water. Make sure to dress appropriately as you’ll want to roll up your trousers and take off your shoes. 

Buy Now: teamLab Planets Tickets via Get Your Guide

Buy Now: teamLab Planets Tickets via Klook

Which One is Best: teamLab Borderless or teamLab Planets?

Both teamLab Tokyo projects are amazing and some of the most popular Japanese art attractions. But if you’re visiting Tokyo for a limited time, should you see both? Or is one recommended over the other? I recommend seeing both teamLab Borderless and Teamlab Planets if you’re in the capital for more than a week and you like spectacles like this. Otherwise, I would just see teamLab Borderless. It’s much larger with more to see and do inside. Also, it’s closer to the main Odaiba area, making it easier to connect to a full-day Odaiba itinerary. Then again, if you think you’ll be back in Tokyo sometime soon then maybe see teamLab Planets first, as it will last two years while teamLab Borderless is ostensibly permanent. 

Studio Ghibli – Animation Museum in Tokyo

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Rounding out the three most popular places for art in Tokyo is Studio Ghibli, 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.

Just keep in mind that you must buy tickets for Studio Ghibli ahead of time. No walk-ins. The tickets will have a specific entry time as well. There are a number of ways to buy Studio Ghibli tickets, including at machines in Lawson convenience stores. Or you can buy them in advance through a variety of online services (listed below). 

Get Your Guide: Advance Ghibli Tickets *PLUS* Tour

Klook: Studio Ghibli Tickets Only

Voyagiin: Studio Ghibli Tickets Only

More Art in Tokyo

While I love all three venues above, I would not consider them the same kind of Tokyo galleries and museums that I visit on a regular basis. They’re all great, but something to see once or twice (confession: I’ve been to Studio Ghibli three times, but the last two were with guests). If you’re looking for contemporary art in Tokyo or interested in design and unconventional Tokyo museums with rotating exhibits, I’ve listed some of our favorites below by area. You’ll find links to these Tokyo museums and galleries below each feature. I’ve included official sites as well as a link to the Tokyo Art Beat website, which is a great bilingual resource for anyone seeking art in Tokyo.

GINZA: Art Museums & Galleries in Tokyo

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

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

Maison Hermes – Art Galleries in Ginza Galleries

Yup, this Tokyo art space is in a French fashion boutique. It’s a beautiful, high-ceilinged room with lots of natural light pouring in from huge walls of glass cubes. If traveling with a stroller or wheelchair, I should note that this is a tough gallery to access. You must first walk a narrow path through the shop, and then take a small elevator in the back. That said, they exhibit some of the most interesting contemporary art in Tokyo. The deer sculpture you see above is by Kohei Nawa.

Shiseido Gallery – Ginza Art Galleries

Like Hermes above, this is one of several contemporary art galleries in Ginza 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 – Tokyo Art Gallery Guide

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

Guardian Garden – Tokyo Art Galleries

This Ginza gallery displays the work of art students and other unestablished artists via competitions. It’s run by the headhunting agency, Recruit, so you don’t have to worry about anything too shocking or controversial on the walls. This basement gallery has regularly rotating shows of varying quality, but worth a look.

ROPPONGI: Tokyo Art Museums & Galleries

Mori Art Museum - Teamlab Borderless & Other Tokyo Art Galleries

This district of Tokyo hasn’t fully shaken its reputation as a seedy bar district. However, Roppongi has gone through an amazing image overhaul since the early ’00s. 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 – Best Contemporary Art Museum in Tokyo

Located on the 35th floor of the Mori Building, this Mori Museum holds major exhibitions, such as huge traveling retrospectives for people like Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei. But they also feature big exhibitions of younger artists as well. 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 10 pm every night except Tuesdays.

Complex665 – Edgy Art Galleries in Roppongi

This is a cluster of some of the best Tokyo contemporary art galleries and it’s only a few minutes’ on foot from the Mori building. There are several internationally-regarded galleries worth visiting. 

21_21 Design Sight – Best Tokyo Museum for Design

One of our favorite kid-friendly 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 – One of the Biggest Art Museums in Japan

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 has rented a space of their own.

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

Harajuku & Omotesando: Tokyo Galleries Downtown

Tokyo galleries and art in Tokyo Omotesando - espace louis vuitton

Step out of the station in this area, 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 Tokyo gallery space is worth visiting if only for the labyrinthian building alone, but 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 of 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 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.

East-Side: Tokyo Galleries & Museums in Tokyo East

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

Okay, so I’ve lumped these Tokyo museums and galleries together simply because they’re all on the east side. However, they are not within easy 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 houses a 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 from the station 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.

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. Close to Akihabara and Gina. 

Mujin-To Productions

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?” by some people, but just too interesting to ignore. The Chim↑Pom collective tries 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.

Other Art Museums & Galleries in Tokyo

There are so many other kid-friendly art spaces in the city, but most of my top picks 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. 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. If you’re staying in a Shinagawa hotel in the Shinagawa area, then it’s great for discovering contemporary art in Tokyo — 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 one exhibit, all visitors received HUGE digital portraits of themselves. About a block away is a fun restaurant 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 Tokyo art gallery is built into an old Japanese bathhouse. Where there once were tubs and steam rooms, now you’ll find 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.

Know More Museums & Galleries in Tokyo?

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

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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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This costs you nothing. However, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book a Japan hotel. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you find art in Japan. 

Photo Credits via Creative Commons CC BY or other Royalty-free image sites. Some images may have been altered slightly via cropping or color enhancement: #1, #4, #5, #6, #12