Museums to visit in Kyoto

This article was first published by 


As the imperial capital and center of court life for over 1000 years, Kyoto has naturally played a central role in the development of Japanese culture. The modern city continues to take pride in its cultural heritage, offering an interesting set of museums devoted to history, arts, crafts and more. Here’s a selection of some of the city’s most prominent museums listed below.


Kyoto National Museum

One of four national museums across the country, the Kyoto National Museum focuses on traditional Japanese art. It features both, exhibitions from its permanent collection and various temporary special exhibitions. Special exhibitions are shown in the museum’s brick building from the Meiji Period, while the permanent collection is housed in a modern building newly opened in 2014.


The Museum of Kyoto

This museum offers a very attractive permanent exhibition about the history of Kyoto, although its floor space is relatively small, and information in English is limited, making it difficult to fully appreciate without Japanese reading skills. In addition, special exhibitions are held periodically.


Raku Museum

The Raku Museum features pottery created using Raku family techniques and traditions. Many of the ceramic works are related to the tea ceremony, especially tea bowls, but also vases and water vessels. The family put down roots in the location of the museum in the Momoyama Period and was favored by tea master Sen no Rikyu.


Nishijin Textile Center

Nishijin Textile Center, named after the city district and local kimono weaving technique, offers interesting displays on kimono, and a kimono show is held several times a day. Last but not least, there is a large shopping section.


Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

Often referred to by its initials, MOMAK, the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto changes the works on display from its permanent collection every couple of months. There are also special exhibitions organized in conjunction with other museums or groups. The museum building itself is a modern construction that was completed in 1986.


Kyoto Railway Museum

Opened in 2016 by JR West, this is one of Japan’s three great railway museums alongside JR East’s Railway Museum in Saitama and JR Central’s SCMAGLEV and Railway Park in Nagoya. It covers the history of railways from steam locomotives to the shinkansen.


Lake Biwa Canal Museum

This interesting museum is dedicated to the construction of the seven kilometer long Lake Biwa Canal, which runs between Kyoto and Biwa Lake to the east. The canal was a massive project and was completed in the late 1800s. The museum displays maps, models and tools.


Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum

Gekkeikan is one of the largest sake companies in Japan. The Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum was established in Fushimi, the same area as the company’s original brewery, and displays traditional tools and methods of sake brewing. There is a free sake tasting at the end of a visit to the museum.


Toei Uzumasa Eigamura

The Eigamura is part of the Toei film studios in Kyoto. It also serves as a theme park, where visitors can see first hand the sets that are used to film popular movies and TV dramas set in the Edo Period (1603-1867).


Kyoto International Manga Museum

The Kyoto International Manga Museum serves as both a facility for manga research and an exhibition space. The museum has a massive collection of manga that can be browsed by guests, and there are also special exhibitions on themes related to international manga.