Newly renovated classic with razor-sharp works
What? Known as MOT, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo has just reopened after a major three-year renovation. Set on the fringes of Kiba Park in east Tokyo, the original sci-fi-esque steel-and-concrete building – all silvery zig-zagging triangular structures with punched-out holes – is as striking as ever. The interiors have been smartened up, and there’s a new café, Sandwich Upstairs (order the strawberry milk, packed with juicy red-berry chunks).
See An ever-changing selection of contemporary art is on show from the museum’s 5,400-strong permanent collection. It ranges from hanga (Japanese wood block prints) to Kenji Yanobe’s dystopian sculptures, which include a metal gas-mask-clad Mickey Mouse and giant rocking scrap-metal mammoth.
4 Chome-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto City; +81 3 5245 4111
Interactive digital graphics that are disrupting the art world
What? If you’ve checked Instagram in the past year you’re sure to recognise the striking immersive works at the world’s first digital art museum, created by whizz-kid art, architecture and tech collective teamLab. It’s housed inside a 10,000-square-metre space on Odaiba island, accessed by the rollercoaster-like Yurikamome train.
See The technology at play here is sensational, allowing artwork to move across the walls and spill from one room to another, activated by visitors’ shadows. In one room there’s a cascading digital waterfall; in another flowers bloom in the path of your footsteps. Upstairs there’s a 3D light-and-sound bouldering course to scramble through and a station to draw your own sea creature; your masterpieces are then scanned and become artwork, swimming across the walls seconds later. No two people have the same experience in this mind-bending museum. Be sure to book ahead and allow at least half a day to explore.
Odaiba Palette Town 2F, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku; +81 3 6368 4292
Gallery dedicated to the works of Japan’s grand dame
What? This informative museum might be petite – each of its five floors constitutes just one small room – but it’s an absolute must-visit for fans of avant-garde artist Yayoi Kusama, who founded the museum as an exploration of her life and work.
See You might see some of her famous quirky spotted pumpkins, and temporary exhibitions here change every few months. Recently her seminal Infinity Nets pieces took centre stage, while up next is her Accumulation series. On the museum’s top floor is a library of Yayoi-related books, some detailing her wild-child past, plus an al-fresco rooftop where sometimes a lone pumpkin sits in the sunshine. Book ahead; no tickets are sold on the door and visitors have just 90 minutes to wander.
107 Bentencho, Shinjuku-ku; +81 3 5273 1778
Postage-stamp-sized space showcasing local artists
What? Fusing backpacker dormitory rooms with a hefty cultural hit is this brand-new museum-meets-hostel in Arakawa, close to Ueno Park. The Micro Museum aims to act as a platform to showcase local talent to a wider audience, and with each new exhibition there’ll be an opening bash where guests will have the opportunity to chat with the artists and find out more about the inspiration behind their work.
See Set to attract locals as well as tourists, every month the on-site gallery displays the work of one of Japan’s hottest up-and-coming artists. The result is a varied lineup from equine sculpture by Ryo Mitsui through to intimate portrait photography by Mami Kiyoshi.
4-35-11 Higashinippori, Arakawa; +81 3 6806 8690
Soar through space with hyper-real films
What? The hot pick for wannabe astronomers and astronauts is Japan’s first, and recently opened, double-dome planetarium. A homage to starry skies and the solar system, the museum is on the site of the country’s original planetarium in Yurakucho (the centre of the city), which was destroyed during the war in 1945. Now, two high-tech domes house a digital theatre showing films in ultra-high definition.
See Films replicate the actual experiences of three Japanese astronauts. There’s also a planetarium, where 4D technology transports viewers into outer space. Strap into a pod for an interactive VR experience, such as Night Cruise, which takes you on a stargazing walk through real-world locations.
9F-10F, Yurakucho 2-5-1 Chiyoda City; +81 3 6269 9952