Thursday, April 15, 2010

Best Museums in Tokyo

Tokyo has many different museums and it is almost impossible to name THE best one.  Here are three museums that are surely among the best.

1. Nezu Museum (Aoyama)

It is like an oasis in the center of a shopping area. Although it is a private museum, it has an amazing collection which includes National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. The collection consists mainly of Japanese art such as calligraphy, paintings, lacquer ware, textiles, and some archeological objects from China.

It was recently renovated and re-opened in October 2009. The new building was designed by an architect Kengo KUMA. The simple contemporary design of the building creates an interesting harmony with the Japanese landscape garden in the back, which is nice for a stroll on a sunny day.

2.  Tokyo National Museum (Ueno)

It is located at the edge of Ueno Park, which is one of the most crowded cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo. The museum consists of five buildings with different themes, and the main building (Honkan, Japanese Gallery) can be the most interesting for those who want to have an overview of the Japanese history. It displays Japanese art in the chronological order from pre-historic age to the mid-19th century. The items displayed include earthenware, ceramics, swords, armor, Buddhist statues, paintings etc.

Have you seen the thousand statues of Buddha in Sanjusangen-do in Kyoto? If not, just to let you know I saw at least three of them displayed in this museum.

3.   Mori Museum (Roppongi)

The museum is located on the 53rd floor of Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills commercial complex. It is an contemporary art museum without a permanent collection. Whether you like it as a museum may depend on what they exhibit when you go, but what is great about this museum is that an entrance to the observatory deck is included in the admission fee (JPY1,500). It is at 250 meters above the sea level and you can enjoy a 360-degree view of Tokyo. Tokyo Tower is right in front of you. It is good to visit on a clear day, but the night view is also magnificent.  

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Art market in Tokyo

Art Fair Tokyo started on Friday. More than 130 galleries are exhibiting in Tokyo International Forum, a glass building convention center in Yurakucho. It is the biggest art fair of the kind in Japan and most galleries are from Tokyo.

Despite the fact that it was a windy weekday afternoon, the site was full of people looking for art for them to enjoy. It was surprising because when I visit art galleries in Tokyo, I usually find very few visitors except myself. What I mean by "galleries" are spaces selling art works, and not museums that charge admission fees.  Such museums are always crowded, often over-crowded, but art galleries that are free to walk in are almost always quiet. It is an indication that in Japan people enjoy art more as thing to see than as thing to own.

However, look at the crowd. Art market does exist here. I heard that many good pieces had already been sold to invited guests on the pre-opening day, but I felt the art fair was more popularized than last year with new good contemporary artists appealing to new art collectors. The overall quality seemed to have gotten more competitive.

If you are to go art buying in Japan, taking time to visit galleries and evaluating art pieces in serene atmosphere would be another nice way.

(For arranging gallery-visits or any art-themed tours in Japan, please contact us through our website )

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cherries in bloom

In Tokyo cherry trees are in full bloom.  As I write this, the wind is blowing like a storm.  I hope it will save the flowers for some more days.

The moat side of the Imperial Palace is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots.

The Japanese do love cherry blossoms.  Once in bloom, cherry flowers last only a week or so.  People often compare it to the transitory nature of life, but I am rather impressed by the patience of cherry trees.  When the flowers are gone, cherry trees look just like any other trees and we almost forget that they are cherries.  They stay silent until after the next winter and then suddenly come back in the spotlight.  They bloom in chorus and color a whole town or mountains in pink.  It seems to me that they are very much enjoying their moment of glory!  It must be worth waiting for a year. 

The "cherry blossom front" moves from the south up to the north.  It is like cherry blossoms are parading through Japan.  In the northernmost parts of Japan they bloom in early May, so you can still make it in time to enjoy the beautiful flowers.  Book your trip now!