Aug. 12, 2018 UPDATE

Japan Kanji Museum & Library

- 漢字ミュージアム -
Kanji Museum in Gion is a place where you can learn about the history of Chinese characters through interactive games
The Kanji Museum opened in June 2016 in front of Yasaka Shrine in Gion, and it’s the first kanji, or Chinese character museum in Japan. When you think of museums you may think of exhibitions and historic material on display, but what is special about the Kanji Museum is that you can learn about Chinese characters by seeing and touching them. The museum has two floors; the first one having a movie theater and graphic displays about the birth, history, and evolution of Chinese characters, and you can freely walk around this floor and look at the historic materials. On the second floor you can learn about kanji through games and quizzes. Besides these they also have a library where you can study kanji, and you can try a smartphone with the Kanji Kentei, or the Japan Kanji Aptitude Test, app on it and see how many kanji you can recognize, plus they also have kanji workshops for families. This Kanji Museum is a place where children, and of course adults too, will be absorbed into the world of Chinese characters.
A kanji tower with 50,000 Chinese characters
A kanji tower with 50,000 Chinese characters
When you see this tower with 50,000 kanji characters, it almost makes you shout “Truly, this is the Kanji Museum!” in admiration. There is an elevator inside this tower, and on the walls you can see approximately 50,000 Chinese characters. The ones bigger than the rest in blue are the kanji Japanese children learn in elementary school and the ones in orange are the “joyo kanji”, a list of 2,136 kanji by the Japanese Ministry of Education. The smaller Chinese characters are rare kanji that are not used regularly. You can spend a long time here looking for the characters you like or the characters in your name.
First floor exhibition corner
First floor exhibition corner
In the first floor exhibition they tell about the origin and history of Chinese characters all the way to present time through photographs andtext. You can learn about the characters and writing tools ancient people actually used, and you can even pick them up and see them up close.
Interact with kanji on the second floor
3Good Experiences
Interact with kanji on the second floor
The second floor is mainly about interactive experiences, and you can touch and feel Chinese characters through all kinds of games and interactive panels. They have multiplayer touch panel games, a corner where you can make characters with your body, and places where you can see the characters for animals, plants, and familiar things like soap bars. I recommend you start from the place that interests you the most.
Learn about kanji with the “experience sheet” worksheet
4Good Experiences
Learn about kanji with the “experience sheet” worksheet
When you buy the entrance ticket to the museum, you get handed an “experience sheet,” a worksheet pamphlet. There are places on the first floor where you can use this experience sheet. They have a corner where you can use stamps to stamp your name in ancient Chinese characters on the sheet, and another where you can stamp the names of countries in Chinese characters to the sheet (normally country names are written using the katakana alphabet in Japan), and all of these experiences can be done just by stamping the sheet.
Manner & Tips
- Manner & Tips -

・Don’t drink or eat inside the museum
・You can take pictures inside the museum but there are some displays that can’t be photographed. These displays are marked by “Photography forbidden” stickers. Also, don’t use flash inside the museum.
・On the first floor there are coin lockers for bags and hand luggage (for a fee).

2.8 experience2.5 access3.0 photogenic3.0
Overseas Tourist-Friendly
3.0 experience3.0 access3.0 photogenic3.0
Personally, I really want to recommend this spot! They manage to take the difficult matter of the history of Chinese characters and explain it to children in a fun and easy to understand way through games and quizzes, while of course adults can look at the historic materials and learn about the subjects more deeply. The exhibition on the first floor about the typing and printing materials used by people of the past was interesting and exciting. It’s nice that you can also freely take photos inside the museum!
2.7 experience2.0 access3.0 photogenic3.0
This museum was even more fun than I at first thought it would be, there are games and just many things you can try yourself. The place is really interesting if you have even the slightest interest in Japanese writing systems, but the museum should really interest those studying Japanese. So many kanji!
3.5 experience4.0 access3.5 photogenic3.0
Overseas Tourist-Friendly
3.5 experience4.0 access3.5 photogenic3.0
Japan Kanji Museum & Library / 漢字ミュージアム
Category Museums & Galleries
Phone +81 75-757-8686
Address 551, Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074
Directions A 5-minute walk from Keihan Gion-Shijo Station toward Yasaka Shrine or right by Kyoto City Bus Gion bus stop.
Open Hours 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Entrance to the museum until 4:30 p.m.)
Reservations Not necessary. Big groups need to make an advance reservation.
Closed Mondays (in case of a national holiday the next day) / New Year’s holidays / May be temporarily closed
Price range
Adults ¥800, university and highschool students ¥500, elementary school students ¥300, Children younger than elementary school students and those with disabilities get in for free
Credit cards Not accepted
Overseas Tourist-Friendly
Right now all the information in the museum is in Japanese, but they are planning on the exhibition in English, Chinese, and Korean too. There are many interactive games on the second floor so there are many things you can try even if you don’t understand Japanese, so those of our readers who are interested in kanji should definitely go.
Information Only Japanese.
Lanuages spoken Only Japanese.
Other The museum irregularly holds workshops every week on either weekdays or on weekends. In these workshops you can do things like make Chinese character keyrings or make stamps out of erasers, and anyone can join them. They also sometimes hold workshops for adults too. The latest information can be seen on their homepage so if you are interested I recommend checking the website often.
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