5 Quirky Museums In Japan You Cannot Miss

Ranging from the eccentric to the downright odd.

Ninja Museum
PHOTO Ninja Museum

Japan boasts an enormous number and variety of amazing world-class museums. With subjects ranging from traditional and contemporary art to history, war, religion, and science, tourists flock from all over the world to immerse themselves in Japanese culture, and admire their rich history and traditions.

While millions of tourists every year will visit traditional museums like the unmissable Tokyo National Museum, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, or 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan also offers alternative options to the beaten path for those that prefer an unconventional approach to the Japanese culture.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five deliciously quirky museums – ranging from the eccentric to the downright odd – that will give you a completely different experience from your usual stuffy museum.

1. Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum

518-0873 Mie-ken, Iga-shi, Uenomarunouchi, 117, Japan (map, website)
伊賀流忍者博物館 Iga-ryu Ninja Museum
FACEBOOK 伊賀流忍者博物館 Iga-ryu Ninja Museum

Appearing in the 15th century during the Sengoku period, the shinobi – more commonly known as ninjas – were covert mercenaries and assassins for hire. Specializing in guerilla warfare by means of infiltration, ambush, espionage, sabotage, and assassination, ninjas were silent and deadly – and have become a huge obsession of literature and pop culture ever since.

The Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum is the perfect opportunity to experience what the life of a ninja was like during this time in Japan. Consisting of a small, realistic ninja house – filled with ninja tricks, trap doors, and revolving walls – as well as two exhibition halls filled with over 400 ninja weapons and tools, this museum offers fans of ninja art the chance to dive in deep into ninja history, culture, literature and weaponry. Make sure you stick around at the end of the tour, where you’ll have the opportunity to witness a ninjutsu demonstration including weapons! If you want to learn more about ninjas and the Iga-Ryu museum, Ninjacasinobonus has a great article on the subject.

2. Ghibli Museum

181-0013 Tōkyō-to, Mitaka-shi, Shimorenjaku, 1 Chome – 1 – 83, Japan (map, website)
Ghibli Museum
FACEBOOK Ghibli Museum

Miyazaki Hayao’s Studio Ghibli has crafted some of the most adored and acclaimed modern animated classics, such as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and the Academy Award-winning work Spirited Away, gaining it a huge fanbase from children and adults the world over.

Located in Inokashira Park in Mitaka and whimsically designed by Miyazaki Hayao himself in the style of his movies, Ghibli Museum immerses visitors in its amazing worlds depicted in its films – a fact evidenced by the museum’s slogan “Let’s get lost together.” Featuring giant models of iconic characters like Neko Bus and Totoro, the museum showcases artwork and storyboards as well as educating visitors about the history and techniques of animation, including short films by Studio Ghibli that are not available anywhere else.

Not to mention, there’s the Ghibli themed café, temporary exhibitions, children’s play area and a rooftop garden. If you’re a fan of the endlessly inventive world of Studio Ghibli, then Ghibli Museum is simply a can’t-miss when visiting Tokyo. For more information on this museum, check out Justhungry’s in-depth review.

3. Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum

911-8601 Fukui-ken, Katsuyama-shi, 51-11, Japan (mapwebsite)
Dinosaur Museum
PHOTO Dinosaur Museum

If you are a fan of all things dinosaurs, you’re just in luck as the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum is one of the world’s premiere destinations to learn all about our reptilian predecessors. As one of the “World’s Three Great Dinosaur Museums,” the Fukui is dedicated to dinosaur study and education, comprised not only of open exhibitions for the public but also features an active international center of research on dinosaurs.

Along with exhibits and animations about the history of life on earth and how dinosaurs evolved into birds, the museums features seven mounted dinosaur skeletons using original specimens and over forty skeletons reproduced using casts – each one with detailed explanations on the species. The museum also features an interactive area, where visitors are allowed to pick up and admire actual dinosaur fossils.

4. Sand Museum

689-0105 Tottori-ken, Tottori-shi, 2083-17, Japan (map, website)
Sand Museum, Japan
PHOTO Sand Museum

If you find yourself in the region of Tottori visiting their famous sand dunes, it would be a crime to leave without visiting the world’s only indoor Sand Museum, a sand crafted poem to ephemeral beauty.

The Sand Museum exhibits large sand sculptures built by master artists from all over the world. Originally held outdoors, exhibits last around a month-and-half before naturally collapsing; an indoor facility was built in 2014 to allow the sculptures to stand for longer periods of time. However, these amazing sand sculptures will only be displayed for a temporary amount of time before they are destroyed in order for new works to be constructed in their place for the next exhibit, making each visit to this museum completely unique and worthwhile.

In 2017, the theme of the exhibition is the United States of America. This exhibition was opened to the public on April 15, 2017 and will be demolished on January 3, 2018, so make sure to check it out before it’s gone!

5. TOTO Museum

802-8601 Fukuoka-ken, Kokurakita-ku, Nakashima, 2 Chome 1 – 1, Japan (map, website) 
Toto Museum
PHOTO Toto Museum

As perhaps the most bizarre museum on this list, TOTO Museum is a celebration of the history of the oft-called porcelain god, otherwise known as toilets. Founded in 1917, TOTO is the leading producer of toilets and washlets – electronic toilets that incorporate bidet and drying functions – in Japan and holds the title of the most innovative toilet company in the world.

In order to showcase the evolution of their products, TOTO opened a museum in 2015 next to their company’s headquarters in Kitakyushu. Exhibiting over 950 TOTO products and fabricated bathrooms, TOTO has even gone so far as to create a replica of their first water-flushing toilet created over a century ago. Other exhibits include replicas of deluxe lavatories such as the one provided for the State Guest House in Tokyo used routinely by visiting foreign dignitaries.

In case you were wondering, the museum allows visitors to try out their latest products, some of which no longer stop at just washing and drying users, but they also offer heated seats, automated flushing, and even play sounds to drown out any unwanted noises. Whatever you do, don’t forget to stop by the museum’s gift shop on your way out!

Article written by CLAUDIO RAFAEL DEIMUNDO.

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