Exploring the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, Japan

When you’re planning your trip to Kyoto the initial thought is to visit all the shrines and historical museums, which of course, are definitely worth a visit. But also, because of this, Japan’s contemporary culture is overlooked when thinking of Kyoto. So why not change the itinerary a bit? Take a day to immerse yourself in the country’s modern times and artworks.

Kyoto’s National Museum of Modern Art offers a wide range of different artworks and is definitely a breath of fresh air. Being a fan of museums myself, I decided to explore the place and I was surely glad I did.

There are two different displays in the museum on two separate floors. The third floor has the Exhibition Gallery. It’s a special exhibit which changes around five times in a year and usually has a distinct theme or artist. The fourth floor holds the Collection Gallery. This also changes around five times in a year and displays the museum’s own collection of artworks. On this floor there is a rest area where you can view the outside scenery as well as get a good look at the large Torii (a traditional Japanese gate) right in front of the museum.

When I visited the museum, they were showcasing works of Koji Kinutani in the Exhibition Gallery, and I was completely in awe. The pieces were unique, amazing, and fresh. They were expressive, loud, a stark contrast to Japan’s traditional, delicate art. There was even a video exhibition by Koji Kinutani which really pulls you in. It gave me more insight on why he had recurring themes in his paintings. People always say that art imitates life and that it shows the merging of an artist’s reality and imagination. This was a great way to take a look into how Japan’s artists see modern life and yet heavily incorporate their culture and history into new styles.

On the fourth floor where the Collection Gallery was, I saw a wide range of artworks. There were also older pieces dating back to 1911. It was intriguing to see these traditional paintings and sketches in comparison to the modern ones. You could see where the contemporary artists drew their inspiration from and still keep true to their culture and certain styles.

All-in-all, the museum was memorable and so many of the pieces were inspiring and beautiful.

Information on the Museum

There are two types of tickets. The first type is only for the Collection Gallery and costs around 430 yen for an adult. The second type is for both the Exhibition Gallery and the Collection Gallery which costs around 1,400 yen but this may change as the price also depends on the special exhibit they’re showcasing at the time. I highly suggest you purchase the second type as the Exhibition Gallery really is something to see.

The museum provides a floor guide in different languages, and there is an information booth on the first floor.

Surrounding Area

Right in front of the museum is a huge red Torii and the surrounding area is a great place to walk around. Very nearby is also Heian Shrine, making the museum’s location very convenient for being able to fit two main sightseeing spots in one day. Right across is Okazaki Park, and in the area is also the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, an exhibition hall, a theatre, bookstore, and a Starbucks. The place is great to relax, the sidewalks are wide, and it’s the perfect place to stroll or have some coffee.


From Kyoto Station, go to Kyoto Ekimae Bus stop, take bus number 5, and then get off at the Okazaki Koen stop. From Shijo Kawaramachi you can also take the same bus and get off at the same stop. A bus ticket in Japan costs 230 yen.

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