Art Lover’s Guide to Kyoto
The former capital of Japan is steeped in tradition and culture, which is reflected in its artwork and museums. But contemporary art also thrives here, and the city supports a lively art scene. See below for some of the top museums and experiences for art lovers in Kyoto.
National Museum of Modern Art
Commonly referred to as MOMAK, Kyoto’s premier venue for contemporary art was designed by Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. The permanent collection features around 10,000 pieces of art and includes Japanese paintings, textiles, and ceramics in addition to Western art. MOMAK is also known for a constant rotation of temporary exhibitions.
Kyoto National Museum
One of only four top-level national museums in Japan, the Kyoto National Museum houses an extensive collection of Japanese art and archaeological artifacts. Find the permanent collection in the spacious Heisui Chishinkan building and temporary exhibitions in the original main building, constructed in the 1890s.
Kyoto International Manga Museum
Formerly an elementary school, the Kyoto International Manga Museum features a collection of around 300,000 manga (Japanese comics) and exhibits, including contemporary manga art, foreign manga animations, and early manga examples. Visitors can read any piece of manga that line the walls of the museum.
Kyoto Museum of Tradition Crafts and Art and Culture Experiences
Kyoto is one of the best places to explore traditional Japanese arts and art forms, such as calligraphy, shibori (fabric dyeing), and ikebana (flower arrangement). Get an overview and inspiration at the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, then try your hand at a workshop or a private lesson.
Kyoto Art Center
Located in a Meiji-era elementary school, the Kyoto Art Center promotes contemporary art and artists and encourages interactions between artists and the public. The center is home to gallery space, artist studios, and an auditorium and also hosts frequent exhibitions, performances, and cultural shows.
One of the newest museums in Kyoto, the Ryukoku Museum is one of the largest museums in the world devoted to Buddhist art and artifacts. The permanent collection covers the beginnings of Buddhism in India, its spread through Asia, and its arrival in Japan. Special exhibitions are also held from time to time.