Museums are an excellent opportunity to delve into Japanese history and culture — but these aren’t your typical museums. Unusual subjects, unexpected displays and uncommon sights make these museums a little different than your run-of-the-mill gallery of glass display cases. This list captures Japan’s most interesting museums, like a collection of rebuilt historical structures and a natural history museum that was designed to disappear under snow. 

Discover Japan’s most curious museums and the incredible stories they tell.


Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

Journey through Tokyo’s architectural history at a park-like museum with 30 rebuilt structures from the 19th and 20th centuries.  

Website: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

3-7-1 Sakura-cho, Koganei-shi, Tokyo 184-0005


Ghibli Museum

Showcasing the work of the famed Japanese animation studio, Ghibli Museum invites visitors into the curious world of Studio Ghibli.

Website: Ghibli Museum

1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181-0013


Museum of Kites 

Thousands of unique kites have been carefully collected in a museum — that just so happens to be above a restaurant. See traditional, modern, handcrafted and dynamic flying creations. 

2F, 1-8-3, Nihonbashi-muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 103-0022


Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science

Also known as Kyororo, the museum essentially disappears under the region’s heavy snowfall, and aquarium-like windows turn the snow into an exhibit all its own. Don’t miss the Matsunoyama Treasure Box, where locals store their own treasures. 

1712-2, Matsunoyamamatsuguchi, Tokamachi-shi, Niigata, 942-1411


Nima Sand Museum

Can sand sing? This museum displays the region’s sand, which does indeed make sounds under pressure. Hands-on experiences and the world’s biggest hourglass, which takes an entire year to empty, make for dynamic exhibits.

Website: Nima Sand Museum

975 Tengouchi, Nima-cho, Ota-chi, Shimane 699-2305


Kaiyodo Kappa Museum

Visit a cottage in the woods to learn about the mythical kappa, or water sprite…who just so happen to like cucumbers.

Wesbite: Kaiyoda Kappa Museum

685-1, Utsuigawa, Shimanto-cho, Takaoka-gun, Kochi 786-0322 


Fudenosato Kobo Brush Museum

A single town, Kumano, creates the majority of Japan’s calligraphy brushes. Calligraphy is an art central to Japanese culture making this museum of handcrafted brushes a glimpse into Japan’s past and present.

Website: Fudenosato Kobo Brush Museum

5-17-1 Nakamizo, Kumano-cho, Aki-gun, Hiroshima 731-4293


Tobacco & Salt Museum

An otherwise unlikely pair, tobacco and salt were once protected under Japanese government monopolies. This museum explores their cultural importance.

Website: Tobacco & Salt Museum

1-16-3 Yokokawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0003


Japon Louvre Sculpture Museum

A sister to France’s Louvre Museum, this location features 1,300 replica sculptures — all carefully crafted from molds of the originals. It also has a replica of one sculpture that has never been put on display in France. 

Website: Japon Louvre Sculpture Museum

1957 Higashi-tani, Hakusancho Sada, Tsu-shi, Mie 515-2621


Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda (Momofuku Ando Invention Memorial)

Who hasn’t enjoyed a savory serving of instant ramen? Discover its origin and enjoy the hands-on experience of making your own. 

Website: Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda

8-25 Masumi-cho, Ikeda-shi, Osaka 563-0041

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