The Tokyo National Museum (TNM) was established in 1872, when the first exhibition was held by the Museum Department of the Ministry of Education. Soon after the opening, the museum moved to Uchiyamashita-cho and then in 1882 it moved to its current location in Ueno Park.
The museum is a repository of Japanese art, but also holds many historical materials, including ancient documents and records, drawings and maps, copybooks of rubbings, woodblock-printed books, photographs and reproductions. In addition, it collects, houses and displays a comprehensive collection of art works from other Asian countries and conducts research and investigations on these collections.
In total the museum is home to around 116,000 pieces of art and historical objects of Asia. Among these are 635 ‘important cultural properties’ and 88 ‘national treasures’.
An ‘important cultural property’ is an item that is judged to be of particular importance to the Japanese people and these items are classified according to their nature. ‘National treasure’ is a designation given by the Japanese government to items which are judged to be of particular value within the context of world culture heritage, as well as to Japan and its people. National treasures are strictly selected from among items designated as important cultural property. They not only represent masterful artistry, but are also valuable in terms of cultural history and superbly demonstrate the characteristics of the periods in which they were produced.
In the late 19th century the exhibits included historical documents and drawings previously owned by the Edo shogunate government, as well as a comprehensive collection of animals, plants and minerals, or ‘natural history’. Later, the natural history items and other scientific material were transferred to another museum, the present-day National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo.
Donations from the public have greatly enriched the museum collection. Among the many historical materials, the donation in 1943 by Mt. Tokugawa Muneyoshi of 10,000 publications from the Edo period (1603-1868), forms a significant part of the collection. Through the historical materials collected in these ways, many aspects of former times can be understood, such as politics, society, culture, transport and scenery.
The museum consists of six exhibition buildings, which host a number of regular exhibitions, in addition to large-scale special exhibits, held approximately five times per year.
Within the museum grounds are the gardens and five historic tearooms, which can be booked for tea ceremonies and other events, such as Haiku gatherings. The gardens are also home to a number of cultural properties and monuments including a five story pagoda and the gravestones of the clan Arima.
The Tokyo National Museum is located in Ueno Park, which is within walking distance of a number of JR and Tokyo Metro Stations (JR Ueno, JR Uguisudani, Tokyo Metro Ginza and Hibiya Line Ueno, Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line Nezu, Keisei Railways Ueno).
The museum is usually open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30 to 17:00, although it is sometimes open later and a full list of opening hours can be found on the TNM website. Entry fee is 620 yen per adult.
- Information signs at the Toyko National Museum