How to Visit Tokyo Museums as a Foreigner and Get a Good Deal

  • ART
  • History
  • This spring and summer the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum has been holding a special art exhibit on Gustav Klimt, a famous Austrian symbolist painter. I love going to art museums and was not going to pass up an opportunity to see this special exhibit. While I’ve been to plenty of art museums in my life, going to a museum in Tokyo proved to be a different experience than what I am used to.

    If you are someone who wants to travel to Tokyo or already has plans to visit, below are some tips on how to navigate museums in Tokyo and have the best experience possible.

    Getting Tickets

    There are a few ways to get tickets for museums, and sometimes it will differ from museum to museum. For the Tokyo Metropolitan, the main museum is free entry, so you can just walk right in, but you will need to get tickets for the special exhibits. You can do this by calling in for tickets in advance and getting a slight discount, or you can simply buy tickets at the door.


    View this post on Instagram


    A post shared by Micci (@micci.jpn) on

    At the Tokyo National Museum, a museum filled with the history of Japan, tickets are only available onsite, but you are able to get tickets in advance at its ticket office during museum hours.

    If you are wanting to go to the Ghibli Museum, however, tickets are a bit more difficult to get. The Ghibli is a museum based on all the animated movies produced by Studio Ghibli. To get tickets you need to get them a month in advance and you can only purchase them at a Lawson store if you are in Japan. Even though it is tedious to obtain tickets to Ghibli, its definitely worth it.


    View this post on Instagram


    A post shared by kei1116 (@kei1116d) on

    Also remember, if you are a student in high school or at University it is important to keep your student I.D. with you because you can get special discounts at many of the museums around Tokyo.

    Getting to the Museum

    Depending on how far away you are from the museum will determine how you get there. Tokyo is very pedestrian friendly, so walking to a museum is not a bad option on a nice day, plus it’s free.

    The other easy and eco-friendly way to go is by biking. As much as Tokyo is pedestrian friendly it is also biker friendly. In fact, since I’ve been here it seems that more people ride bikes than drive cars. There are a handful of places to rent bikes from, Docomo Community Cycle, Cogicogi, and Rin Project to name a few. Below is a link to an article with a more extensive list of places to rent.


    View this post on Instagram


    A post shared by Maroun Baydoun (@marounbaydoun) on

    If you are far enough out you may just consider going by train. At first, the train system can seem daunting to use, but Google Maps is your best friend when it comes to letting you know when to get on and off a train. If you are only in Tokyo for a short time you are able to get a 72-hour metro pass either at the airport or at a station, otherwise, it is best to invest in a PassMo card.

    Being in the Museum

    Learn from my mistakes. I assumed I knew museum etiquette and ending up almost getting myself in trouble.

    First off, it is really important to look at signs before entering exhibits in the museum. This is where I made my mistake. I am used to being able to take photos of artwork while in a museum as long as there is no flash, however, many of the museums in Tokyo have a “no photography” policy because of copyright and protecting other visitors’ privacy. So be sure to look at the signs before entering because some areas may allow photos and others may not. Also, if you are caught taking photos where it is not allowed a staff member will be quick to run up and instruct you to stop taking pictures.

    Sometimes special exhibits in museums can be crowded due to the popularity of the exhibit. If this happens, be prepared to wait in lines to see works of art or specific pieces in the exhibit.

    Lastly, take your time in the museums here, mainly because you may never be back again. There is a huge amount of history and culture to see within all the museums Tokyo has to offer.