The Imperial Museum became the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum in 1900, the year of the wedding of Crown Prince Yoshihito (the future Emperor Taisho). SHIBUSAWA Eiichi, SENGE Takatomi and other prominent figures decided to build a new gallery in Tokyo as a wedding gift to the prince and they asked for contributions from all over the country. Nearly 24,000 people responded and donated 400,000 yen in total. On October 27, KATAYAMA Tokuma, architect of the Imperial Household Ministry, was chosen to design the building to be located at Ueno Park.
The construction began in August 1901 and was completed in September 1908. The new building was formerly presented to the Crown Prince on October 10 and named Hyokeikan the following month. The Tokyo Imperial Household Museum was assigned as its administrator. The two-story, cross-shaped, steel-framed building was based on ancient Greek and Roman architecture, and had a circular hall in the center and two small domes accommodating the stairs at both ends. The galleries made full use of natural lighting. Two bronze lions made by sculptors OKUMA Ujihiro and NUMATA Ichiga stood at the front entrance.
In respect to the founding concept of the building, the gallery specialized in exhibitions of painting, sculpture and decorative art. Rooms 1 and 2 were designated for decorative art, Room 3 for calligraphy, Rooms 4, 5, and 6 for paintings, and Rooms 7 and 8 for sculptures. Sculptures were later moved and the rooms were used to display paintings.