Art Havens in Japan: Tokyo Midtown

Posted By Nathan Hoernig

Why Does This Matter To You?

Whether you’re just traveling or you’re already here, if you’re in Japan and are itching to see some Japanese creativity, this article will give you the coordinates to the best locations. In this series, we’ll look at specific places you can go to quench your creative thirsts and hopefully get a bit of cultural education in the process.

Today, we bring you to the heart of Tokyo just a short walk from Roppongi station is the super-classy and modern…

Tokyo Midtown

Coordinates: 35°39’57”N, 139°43’ 54”E

The exterior overhang of Tokyo Midtown

photo credit: Yoshikazu Takada on flickr

Tokyo Midtown is conveniently (for me) located on the southern side of Tokyo’s twenty-three wards. To be clear, Tokyo Midtown is not a “neighborhood” if you will but a cleverly named and marketed “campus”. Known for its high-scale shopping, impressive architecture and super-modern edge, it’s one of the most popular places for people of all ages to bask in the sunlight of any of the numerous patio’d restaurants, spend a little too much money (for too little food), enjoy shopping and most of all, experience art.

Architecture

The architecture here is stellar. Lots of outdoor mini-parks, gorgeous buildings, sculptures, etc. What’s really great is that there’s just as much inside as there is outside. Here are a few photos to whet your whistle a bit.

Crosswalks inside Tokyo Midtown

photo credit: bizmac on flickr

stone sculpture inside tokyo midtown

photo credit: kojach on flickr

The buildings (there are six of them) of Tokyo Midtown are mostly gorgeously-built skyscrapers. Like most inner-city buildings the upper floors of the main building are offices and businesses. Major Japan-based design companies (such as JAGDA) are located here and also have a strong foothold in the delights of us humble shoppers/perusers on the bottom few stories. It’s so elite that in order to go to those upper stories, you need a card pass which “clocks” you in and out. Now that’ll make you feel like you’re important (or like you’re a character from the novel, 1984).

Galleries

Within (and in the vicinity) there are four main galleries/museums allowing you to explore Japan’s creative side. Two of them are modern design-related galleries while the other two are more traditional art museums. Starting with the former:

Design Sight

design sight tokyo exterior

photo credit: inucara on flickr

An architectural feat in itself, Design Sight is a popular place to find modern product design: everything from furniture to jewelry and more. Externally, the building is only one-story and because of the roof design, looks quite quaint. Upon going inside, I was shocked to see the actual space inside. Much more than what you’d expect as most of it is underground.

Design Hub

Design Hub is located on the 5th floor of the complex’s main building. Most commonly the featured-spot for print and packaging design, this small gallery is great for those interested in graphic design. That being said, you’ll find the events here are one-off exhibitions as opposed to permanent works. Admission is often free to the events it holds and although photography is “technically” not allowed, many of the visitors take photos. It’s basically a public space for interested individuals to get a glimpse of what’s going on.

Design hub is relatively small so this is a great place to kill a half hour or so within your schedule. Just walk past the “Big Brother” elevators in the main hall and head to the fifth floor!

Suntory Museum of Art

suntory museum of art exterior

photo credit: wikimedia

Although showing its share of variety, The Suntory Museum of Art is mainly based around Japanese art though there are some western pieces. If you’re of the mindset that you shouldn’t be looking at western art while in Japan, this is probably the best place for you in the area.

You’ll find a decent collection of wares such as pottery and glass. The painting collection houses mainly Japanese work with a few western pieces tossed in.

National Art Center of Tokyo

national art center tokyo exterior

photo credit: Kimtaro

While not actually being part of the Tokyo Midtown complex, this museum is one of the more major museums in Tokyo and often hosts a slew of western art. In keeping with the strong architectural theme of this article, I’ll let the photo above (of the museum’s façade) do all the talking.

If You’re in Tokyo…

…make your way to Tokyo Midtown. Bring a couple extra bucks to get yourself a nice lunch and a coffee. After that, explore. This complex is truly one to spend a whole day at.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Money: Bring a bit more, some of the places are a bit pricey.
  2. Camera: If you forget this, you’ll regret it. That’s a promise.
  3. Good Shoes: If you’re not walking around a lot inside, you’ll need them when you explore the greenery and gorgeous outdoor landscaping.
  4. A Map: This place is like a maze, be sure to grab one at the information desks.

Enjoy Tokyo Midtown. Enjoy art!


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