Aug. 21, 2020 UPDATE
Story & Recommendation
The Kyoto National Museum is one of the famous museums in Kyoto housing some of the most important cultural properties of Japan
*Reuse and copying of the images used in this article is strictly forbidden. The Kyoto National Museum was founded during the Meiji period to protect important cultural artifacts that had until then been held by shrines and temples. The museum has two wings, the Heisei Chishinkan Wing and the Meiji Kotokan Hall, where they mainly display important cultural properties from Kyoto. Both wings of the museum are architecturally significant; the Meiji period Western style red brick Special Exhibition Hall, Meiji Kotokan, the Main Gate of the museum, and the new and modern Heisei Chishinkan Wing just opened in 2014. At the museum they hold two kinds of exhibitions, special exhibitions twice a year with a specific topic and thematic exhibitions showing artifacts and artwork from the museum collection, which are reinstalled regularly. They have sculptures, metalwork, illustrated handscrolls, Buddhist paintings, and lacquerware on display, some of them designated as National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties of Japan. Besides these exhibitions, there are also outdoor exhibits and even a quaint tea house, so there really is a lot to see at this museum that is representative of Kyoto.
Special Exhibition Hall
The Special Exhibition Hall stands out because of its red brick French Renaissance style, and it is the most well-known building of the museum. The Special Exhibition Hall, or Meiji Kotokan, was built in the Meiji period and has kept its original look remarkably well. The Meiji Kotokan is closed now for seismic upgrades and renovation.
Heisei Chishinkan Wing
Heisei Chishinkan is very different compared to the nostalgic Special Exhibition Hall; this one is a modern, architecturally stylish part of the museum opened in 2014. The grated windows of the building look almost like sliding doors, and the building has a definite Japanese feel to it. At Heisei Chishinkan Wing you get to see thematic exhibitions where artifacts and artwork from the museum collection are displayed, and special exhibitions twice a year. Both before and after special exhibitions the museum is closed for installation, so check the museum website before you go.
Tea ceremony at the tea house “Tan’an”
Behind the Special Exhibition Hall you can find a quiet tea house in the refined sukiya-zukuri style. The tea house is in the early Meiji period style of the court nobles, but it can be used by anyone as long as they make a reservation at least six months in advance.