The Best Museums in Kyoto

Kyoto_National_Museum_京都国立博物館_-_panoramio Places to visit in Kyoto
Yoshio Kohara, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Kyoto is the center of traditional Japanese culture in Japan. While much of Japan has modernized and adapted to the changing times, Kyoto still holds on to the many traditional crafts and customs. It served as Japan’s capital from 794 to 1868 and is now one of the country’s 10 largest cities in the country. Many people know Kyoto for its countless temples and shrines, but there are many unique museums to explore and get a better understanding of Japanese culture. Discover ukiyo-e prints in a small studio museum, or learn about the history of sake. Whatever your interests are, there’s a museum in the city for you to explore!

Kansai Grutto Pass

If you’re planning to visit multiple museums during your stay, consider buying the Kansai Grutto Pass for ¥1,100, which provides free or discounted admission to a large number of museums and galleries in the Kansai region. You can buy the Kansai Grutto Pass every month except during February and March at the tourism information centers or offices and it is valid for 3 months.

Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum 

Sake is the drink of choice for those wanting to get into Japanese liquor. Only a few steps away from the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum allows visitors to discover the history of Japanese sake-making. Gekkeikan is one of the largest sake companies in Japan and the museum is located on the museum is located in the same area as company’s original brewery. You can learn about the traditional tools and methods of sake making and be transported back to the old brewery days with traditional chants echoing throughout the museum. Entrance includes a postcard or free sake tasting at the end of your visit. 

Kyoto sake Brewery tour + lunch

Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum
9.30am – 4.30pm

The Kyoto International Manga Museum 

Manga is one of the biggest exports of Japan and now there’s a chance for fans to learn about the history of manga and spend the day learning how to create them. The museum holds a collection of over 30,000 mangas spanning across three floors and a basement. While a majority of the manga is in Japanese there is a selection of 5,000 manga translated into English, Spanish, German, French, and many more. Visitors can attend regular workshops, talks, and performances by reputable manga artists and even have your portrait drawn by a manga artist. Admission costs ¥900, a small price to pay to spend a day reading manga. 

Picture by Takashi Kosaka / CC BY-ND 2.0

The Kyoto International Manga Museum
10.30 – 5.30pm – closed on Tuesday & Wednesday
Admission fee ¥900

National Museum of Modern Art (MoMAK)

This is one of Kyoto’s top contemporary art venues. MoMAK is located in the Okazaki district and is home to over 10,000 artworks including western paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs, and nihonga (traditional Japanese paintings). Famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Yasui Sotaro, and Murakami Kagaku have all displayed their works here.

National Museum of Modern Art
9.30am – 5pm – closed on Monday
Admission fee ¥1,200

The Museum of Kyoto 

Housed in a red-brick building, the Museum of Kyoto details the history of the city. The first section of the museum is a reconstruction of Edo Period cafes and shops. The second section houses paintings by Western and Japanese artists, Kyoto dolls called kyo-ningyo, and an area for films about the city with English subtitles.

Asturio Cantabrio, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Museum of Kyoto
10am – 7.30pm – closed on Monday

The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts 

The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts is a great place to learn about the tradition of Japanese craft making. The museum is known as Fureaikan by locals, and features exhibitions on textiles, woodworking, metalwork, basket, and many more. The museum offers craft demonstrations, geisha and maiko shows and workshops like a yuzen dyeing experience (advance bookings required). Entry is free and the museum is very close to other major sights in Northern Higashiyama, so it’s great for travelers on a budget. It’s northwest of the National Museum of Modern Art in the Miyako Messe building. 

The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts 
9am – 5pm
Free admission

The Kyoto National Museum 

First opened in 1897, the Kyoto National Museum is one of the oldest museums in Japan. It’s one of the only four top-level national museums along with the Nara National Museum, Kyushu National Museum, and Tokyo National Museum. The museum presents rotating permanent collections showcasing sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy and many more along with special temporary exhibitions. 

The Kyoto National Museum
9.30 am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥300

Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum 

Presenting the Japanese spirit of netsuke – Japanese miniature sculpture, the Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum is a great place to learn about the tradition. Originating in the 17th century, these crafts were handed down from generation through the generation of craftsmen. The museum is located near the Mibudera temple in central Kyoto and is housed in a two-story samurai residence. There is approximately 400 antique and contemporary netsuke on display at one time. As your view the unique figures, visitors can leisurely walk through the traditional Japanese rooms to observe the different materials, shapes, and themes of the figures.

Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum 
10am – 5pm – closed on Monday

The Kyoto Railway Museum 

The Kyoto Railway Museum was opened in 2016 by the JR West company on the former site of the Umekoji Train and Locomotive Museum#, a 20-minute walk west of Kyoto Station. It’s one of Japan’s three great railway museums along with JR East’s Railway Museum and JR Central’s SCMAGLEV and Railway Park. The museum showcases 53 retired trains from locomotives, electric trains, and bullet trains. Visitors can walk underneath and observe the inner workings of a freight locomotive. 

The Kyoto Railway Museum 
10am – 5pm – closed on Wednesday
Admission fee ¥1,200 > Get your discounted tickets online

Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art 

Formerly known as the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, the museum was renamed to the Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art after the completion of its renovations.The museum brings in a number of new gallery spaces designed by some of Japan’s top architects. After spending a day perusing the exhibit, visitors can stay to admire the after-dark light display. The light colors will change in accordance with the Japanese-24 season calendar. 

Tokyo-Good, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art 
10am – 6pm – closed on Monday
Admission fee ¥730

Japan Wonder Travel Kyoto Tours

The best way to discover a new place is to be shown around by a local person who can tell you all the interesting stories, give you background information and share places only locals now. Japan Wonder Travel operates tours all over Japan, from Kyoto to Hokkaido and from Kagoshima to Tokyo. We would be more than happy to help to make your trip to Japan an unforgettable experience!

Tokyo Highlights Tour
Kyoto Highlights Tour
Online Kyoto Highlights Tour

Kyoto holds a rich history of tradition and culture which has been well preserved in the vast number of museums in the city. If you’re ever in this wonderful city be sure to stop by and check out some of the exhibits. Many museums are closed on set day and on public holidays, so make sure to check prior to your visit.

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Happy travelling!

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Jamila Brown is a five-year resident of Japan, teaching in the day and writing at night. She enjoys movies, reading, cosplaying, and eating good food in her downtime.

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