Museums That Expand Your Japanese Cultural Awareness

Museum statues

Japanese culture hosts a plethora of niche interests, and in turn, Japan is also home to many museums with unique themes. While in Japan, stop by one of these distinct locations to learn about and experience a different piece of local heritage. 

Sand Museum

Located on the coast of the Japan Sea in the southwest of Japan, the Tottori Sand Dunes are a towering 160 feet high. A short walk from the dunes, the Sand Museum displays extravagant sand sculptures made by artists from all over the world.

Every year the museum updates its exhibits to reflect a different country or region, keeping with its stated concept: “travel around the world in sand.”

After an exhibit has run its course, the sculptures return to sand.  The temporary nature of the artworks is intrinsically linked to the Japanese virtue of appreciating things that are impermanent.

Cup Noodles Museum

Located in Yokohama, Japan, the Nissin Cup Noodles Museum celebrates pre-packaged comfort food. The site hosts interactive experiences, including Cup Noodles Park, which gives kids the opportunity to “experience being in a noodle factory.”

Visitors get to make their own unique Cup Noodles recipe, personalized with special packaging, flavors, and toppings to take home as a souvenir. They can also experience a working chicken ramen factory and see many historical displays focusing on Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Foods.

Tobacco and Salt Museum

Tokyo’s Tobacco and Salt Museum provides visitors with a unique lens through which to learn about Japan’s social and economic history.

The location has expansive floors dedicated to salt and tobacco and boasts more than 30,000 artifacts related to these two substances. Museum-goers can explore a life-sized tobacco shop from the Japanese Edo period as well as one from the 1970s. 

Cat Museum 

Japanese culture has a strong tradition of appreciating cats, from cat cafes to Hello Kitty. But in Shizouka, Japan, the world’s only cat museum takes cat love to the next level.

The Cat Museum hosts more than 2,000 pieces of feline-related art like paintings, toys, woodcarvings, and more. Its “petting plaza” allows visitors to interact with 40 resident cats representing 20 different breeds of domestic cats from around the world.  

Exhibits include the fossils of extinct cat ancestors and an informational look at the big cat species of the world.

Kewpie Mayo Museum

Less well known than the love of cats is Japan’s love of mayonnaise. There is even a specific word for mayo lovers in Japan – “Mayola.”

The Kewpie Mayo Museum, also known as MayoTerrace, is Toyko’s home for all things mayonnaise.

Visitors can learn about the history of mayo, experience the mayo-making process in a working factory, and even walk through a giant mayo bottle. There is also an expansive gift shop with all kinds of mayonnaise-related merchandise.

 Trick Art Museum 

At the Trick Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan, visitors get to capture the perfect selfie. This museum hosts a variety of optical illusions and 3D artworks that puts visitors at the center of the art. The museum focuses on playing with composition and form to trick the eye.

Exhibits include the historical Edo Area, Japanese Monsters, and altered well-known artworks. The pieces let visitors become part of the artwork and capture lasting photos and memories. 

Learn More:
9 Weird Museums in Japan
The Weirdest Museums to Explore in Japan
Cool and Unique Museums in Tokyo