While the Edo Tokyo Museum or the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum are certainly cultural institutions everyone should visit if they have a chance, the city is home to some less famous —and downright strange—museums off the beaten track that are worth visiting. If you’d like to explore the quirky side of Japan, here are twelve unique Tokyo museums bound to pique your curiosity.
Tokyo Trick Art Museum
Whether travelling with the family, spending a day with friends or out on a date, you’ll have enormous fun at the Tokyo Trick Art Museum pretending to be chased by sharks, spooked by Japanese ghosts or trapped in Dracula’s wine glass. This maze of 3D paintings and optical illusions features five areas, including a “Ninja House” and an “Edo Area” to add an extra bit of time travel to the experience. Must bring: a fully charged camera and creative photo ideas.
Address: 4F Decks Tokyo Beach Island Mall, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato
Admission: ¥900 (General)
Tobacco and Salt Museum
Seemingly unrelated at first glance, tobacco and salt are two products that have shaped much of Japan’s industrial history and culture. This museum’s exhibits include ukiyo-e woodblock prints, smoking pipes, tobacco paraphernalia and different utensils.
Address: 1-16-3 Yokokawa, Sumida
Station: Tokyo Skytree
Open: Daily, 10am-6pm, closed Mon (except national holidays)
Admission: ¥100 (Adults)
Though less popular in recent years, kites were a major source of entertainment for Japanese children and at traditional festivals in the days of yore. This museum, located on the fifth floor of popular restaurant Taimeiken, exhibits kites of all shapes and sizes from across Japan and other countries. Visitors can also purchase rare, hand-made kites as souvenirs.
Address: 1-12-10 Nihonbashi, Chuo
Open: Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm; closed Sun & hols
Take a nostalgic trip into the daily life of Japan’s shitamachi, or old downtown, the area where Tokyo’s ordinary citizens lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—an era that shaped much of modern Japan’s culture.
Address: 2-1 Ueno Park, Taito
Open: 9:30am-5:30pm; (closed Mon, except for national holidays)
Meguro Parasitological Museum
Save this one for after lunch. This unique museum exhibits 300 different parasite specimens, including the display of an 8.8-meter-long tapeworm found in a 40-year-old man. Hard to imagine, but we challenge you to view it with your own eyes—hard to forget. Surprisingly, this rare exhibition is also one of Tokyo’s top date spots.
Address: 4-1-1 Shimomeguro, Meguro
Open: 10am-5pm; closed Mon; (closed Mon-Tue from April)
Admission: Free (donations welcome)
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Everything you ever wanted to know about the past and present of Japanese baseball, curated for the love of the game. Located inside Tokyo Dome, one of the meccas for the country’s favorite pastime.
Address: 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo
Station: Suidobashi or Korakuen
Meiji University Museum Criminal Materials Department
A true journey through crime and punishment, this frightful exhibition explores the history of suppressed human rights, devices used to catch criminals in Japan, as well as torture and execution tools. A French guillotine is also on display.
Address: 1-1 Kanda Surugadai, Chiyoda
Open: 10am-5pm, closed during university holidays
Ochanomizu Origami Kaikan
An exhibition center offering a store, gallery and a workshop dedicated to origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding. Visitors can see the professional process of dyeing washi (Japanese paper) and have a hands-on-experience making their own origami souvenirs.
Address: 1-7-14 Yushima, Bunkyo
Open: 9:30am-6pm; closed Sun & hols
Museum of Sewerage
The giant man sitting on a toilet reading a newspaper in this local city museum is about to teach you something: this museum is not about fancy, high-tech washlets or historical old-school toilets—it really is all about the sewage. Here you can learn how this, ahem, circle of life occurs. And if you’ve ever dreamt of seeing the world from the inside of a sewage pipe, you’ve find the right venue.
Address: 1-25-31 Jousuihoncho, Kodaira
Open: 10am-4pm; closed Mon (except for national holidays)
Metropolitan Police Museum
This museum showcasing the history of Japan’s law enforcement can be quite fun, especially if you’re bringing the kids along. They can dress as policemen and even hop on a helicopter for a memorable shot. A special exhibition on police vehicles runs through March 31. If you’re thinking about visiting, though, you should do it now—the museum will close for renovation from April for about an year.
Address: 3-5-1 Kyobashi, Chuo
Station: Kyobashi or Ginza-itchome
Open: 10am-6pm, closed Mon (except national holidays)
Experience the fighting spirit and code of Japanese samurai and martial arts through historical costumes, headgear, guns, swords and other related equipment. If just watching isn’t uplifting enough, choose your favorite samurai costume, strike a true warrior pose and snap a souvenir photo.
Address: 2-25-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku
Station: Shinjuku or Seibu Shinjuku
Open: Daily 10:30am-9pm
Admission: ¥1,800 (General) (with souvenir photo)
A wonderful collection of over 16,000 historical artifacts related to shodo, the Chinese and Japanese calligraphy with immense artistic and archaeological value. Recommended to anyone interested in exploring the history of Chinese characters and Japanese syllabaries.
Address: 2-10-4 Negishi, Taito
Station: Uguisudani station
Open: 9:30am-4:30pm; (closed Mon except national holidays) *Open on March 28