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150th Anniversary Special Exhibition
Tokyo National Museum: Its History and National Treasures

  • Image of "Tomb Sculpture (Haniwa): Warrior in Keikō ArmorFound in Ōta City, Gunma, Kofun period, 6th century (National Treasure)"

    Tomb Sculpture (Haniwa): Warrior in Keikō Armor
    Found in Ōta City, Gunma, Kofun period, 6th century (National Treasure)

    Japanese Archaeology and Special Exhibition (Heiseikan) Special Exhibition Galleries
    October 18, 2022 (Tue) - December 18, 2022 (Sun)

    Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest institution of its kind in Japan. In addition to displaying many important artworks, this exhibition will introduce the Museum from multiple angles, such as by presenting its efforts to conserve and exhibit tangible cultural heritage. With an engaging format and exhibition space, Tokyo National Museum: Its History and National Treasures will be a stage for new discoveries for regular and first-time visitors alike.


Highlights of the Exhibition

Part One: The National Treasures of the Tokyo National Museum

The Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties defines National Treasures as “works bearing significant value in the context of world culture which are also matchless treasures of the nation.” The designation is conferred on masterworks expressing the culture of Japan and the artistic vision of its people.

As of October 2022, a total of 902 works are National Treasures. Of these, the Tokyo National Museum holds nearly a tenth, making it the owner of the largest collection of National Treasures in Japan. In the first part of the exhibition, the Museum is displaying all eighty-nine of its National Treasures—a first in its 150-year history. The works are divided into eight categories: painting, calligraphy, Asian painting,* Asian calligraphy,* the Hōryūji Treasures, archaeology, lacquerware, and swords.

* Works originating in parts of Asia other than Japan.

*These photographs were taken on October 17, 2022.
*During the exhibition there will be rotations in which some of the artworks will be replaced with other works.



Part Two: 150 Years at Tokyo National Museum

Founded in 1872, Tokyo National Museum has the longest history of any museum in Japan. Over the past 150 years, the Museum has contributed to the enrichment and preservation of Japanese culture by carrying out its key missions: collecting and conserving cultural works, making them accessible to the public through exhibitions, and creating new knowledge about them through research. At the same time, the Museum has tailored its activities to meet the demands of each new era as well as Japan’s changing society. The second part of the exhibition is broadly divided into three sections that trace the Museum’s 150-year history from 1872 to today. The works acquired in each period are shown together with supplementary materials to provide an overview of Tokyo National Museum’s past, present, and future.

Chapter One: The Birth of the Museum
Chapter Two: The Imperial Household and the Museum
Chapter Three: A New Kind of Museum

Chapter One: The Birth of the Museum

The Tokyo National Museum held its inaugural exhibition at the Taiseiden Hall of the former Confucian temple Yushima Seido in 1872. At the time, the Museum had two main missions. First, the Museum was to hold exhibitions to showcase Japanese culture in Japan and abroad while also contributing to the country's modernization. Second, it was to protect cultural heritage that was in danger of being destroyed, dispersed, or lost amidst rapid national reforms. A larger objective was to establish the Museum as a comprehensive complex of educational institutions, including a botanical garden, a zoo, and a library in addition to an art and history museum.

In 1882, this modern museum complex― the first of its kind in Japan―was relocated to Ueno Park, where it began its operations in earnest.


By Suzuki Chōkichi, Meiji era, 1892 (Important Cultural Property)

Beauty Looking Back

By Hishikawa Moronobu, Edo period, 17th century
On exhibit through November 13, 2022



Chapter Two: The Imperial Household and the Museum

In 1886, the Museum was placed under the jurisdiction of the Imperial Household Agency, which three years later renamed it the Imperial Museum and eleven years later renamed it the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum. At the time, the Museum was positioned as a cultural symbol of the nation as well as a hallowed hall of art befitting the imperial household. Its role as a museum of art and history became its foremost purpose, gradually eclipsing its other functions.

During its tenure as the Imperial Household Museum, the Museum overcame several major challenges, including rebuilding its main gallery after it was destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 and coordinating the evacuation of cultural works during the war. This period also saw the expansion of the Museum’s collection and further development of its research initiatives, forming the foundation for key activities that continue to this day.

The Actor Ōtani Oniji III as Edobei

By Tōshūsai Sharaku, Edo period, 1794
On exhibit through November 13, 2022



Chapter Three: A New Kind of Museum

After the war, the Tokyo National Museum embarked on a new path as a museum dedicated to serving the Japanese people in 1947. Across the reigns of three emperors—Shōwa (1926–1989), Heisei (1989–2019), and Reiwa (2019–)—the Museum expanded and restructured its organization and renovated and enhanced its facilities. Today, it steadily pursues its mission to collect and conserve cultural works, make them accessible to the public through exhibitions, and create new knowledge about them through research. The Museum continues to challenge itself to pursue initiatives that best align with changing times and new social developments, including adopting the latest technologies, pioneering new fields of study, and finding innovative ways to engage with cultural works. As an institution, the Tokyo National Museum’s commitment to continue to evolve and offer new insights is as strong today as it was 150 years ago.

Clay Figurine (Dogū) with Goggle-Like Eyes

Jōmon period, 1000–400 BC (Important Cultural Property)

Sculpture Traditionally Identified as Minamoto no Yoritomo

Kamakura period, 13th–14th century (Important Cultural Property)

The Wind God and Thunder God

By Ogata Kōrin, Edo period, 18th century (Important Cultural Property)
On exhibit through November 13, 2022

Flowering Plants of Summer and Autumn

By Sakai Hōitsu, Edo period, 19th century (Important Cultural Property)
On exhibit from November 15, 2022



General Information

Period October 18-December 18, 2022
Venue Heiseikan, Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30–17:00
*Until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays (Regular Exhibitions close at 17:00)
Closed Mondays

Visitors must purchase a timed-entry reservation (timed ticket) online prior to their visit.
See the exhibition website for details.

Adults 2,000 yen
University students 1,200 yen
High school students 900 yen

*Free admission for junior high school students and younger. However, advance booking is required. Please present proof of age when entering the museum.
*Free admission for persons with disabilities and one caregiver of individuals with disabilities. Advance booking is not required. Please present a certificate of disabilities when entering the museum. Entry is possible until 30 minutes before closing time.
*Tickets for this exhibition can also be used to visit the general exhibitions on the same day.
*During the exhibition there will be rotations in which some of the artworks will be replaced with other works.

Access 10 minutes' walk from JR Ueno Station (Park exit) and Uguisudani Station
15 minutes' walk from Keisei Ueno Station, Tokyo Metro Ueno Station and Tokyo Metro Nezu Station
Organizers Tokyo National Museum, THE MAINICHI NEWSPAPERS、NHK、NHK Promotions Inc., Japan Arts Council, Agency for Cultural Affairs
With the Sponsorship of East Japan Railway Company、Daishinsha Inc.、DAIWA HOUSE INDUSTRY CO., LTD.、Mitsui Banking Corporation, Yokogawa Electric Corporation, Yokogawa Bridge Holdings Corp.
General Inquiries 050-5541-8600 (Hello Dial)
Exhibition Website https://tohaku150th.jp/ (In Japanese)


Extra Security Measures during the Special Exhibition Tokyo National Museum: Its History and National Treasures

Due to the large number of people expected to visit the Special Exhibition Tokyo National Museum: Its History and National Treasures, Tokyo National Museum is taking extra security measures during its exhibition period. The Museum's security guards may inspect visitors' baggage at the Main Gate Plaza. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we ask for your understanding and cooperation in this effort to prevent incidents from occurring.

October 18 to December 18, 2022

Main gate plaza

When large baggage is brought in, a handheld metal detector will be used to inspect the baggage. Please note that the following items will not be accepted: guns, knives, fireworks, firecrackers, explosives, other dangerous items, and items that may cause inconvenience to other visitors (including items that may harm other visitors, emit a strong odor or make a loud noise).