10 Alluring Art Experiences in Japan

Discover both traditional culture and modern trends through the wide array of art in the country.
By Sarah Etinas

Japan is a multi-faceted artistic haven. From performance art to architecture to food, there is so much to explore. Experience each of these artistic attractions to discover the best of Japan – both past and present.

1. Okada Museum of Art

The earliest form of Japanese art was carved pottery, which was created during the Jomon period (14,000 BCE – 300 BCE). Over the years, this ceramic art evolved with the introduction of a potter’s wheel and colorful paints. See this artistic evolution brought to life at the Okada Museum of Art.

2. teamLab Borderless Tokyo

Japanese art is still evolving today! Admire many pieces of modern, digital art at teamLab Borderless in Tokyo. Each room at teamLab Borderless provides a multi-sensory, all-encapsulating experience. The colors, sounds, shapes and movements all work together to create a digital art space unlike any other.

3. Kadokawa Culture Museum

The Kadokawa Culture Museum is an architectural marvel. On the outside, the geometric, granite building is unlike any other structure in the world. But the design choices don’t stop there! The inside boasts an innovative library and a multifunctional space that can be transformed using projection mapping.

4. Wagashi

If you’ve ever seen Japanese food, you’ve likely noticed the artful, careful plating. Wagashi, traditional Japanese desserts, take this standard of creativity and thoughtfulness to the next level. Made from ingredients like rice flour and azuki beans, wagashi are then shaped to resemble flowers, fruits or eye-catching geometric shapes.

5. Aragi-jima Island Rice Terraces

Even the agricultural landscapes of Japan are artfully engineered. The 54 geometric rice terraces of Aragi-jima Island look like a contemporary geometric abstraction piece. While it may look lovely, the primary purpose of the design is for effective irrigation.

6. Zazen Kencho-ji

Meditation is one form of art that is often overlooked, but, in Japan, it’s embraced. Kencho-ji, a Buddhist temple in Kamakura, is one of the five most prestigious zen temples in Japan. Today, locals and visitors alike can participate in the temple’s zazen – or meditation – sessions.

7. Tokushima Udatsu

When you walk into the historical Udatsu district in Tokushima Prefecture, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time. Nearly every building in this neighborhood was built during the Edo Period. If you look closely, you’ll see the Edo-specific architectural feature known as udatsu, clay walls separating each home. These walls are topped with intricately carved clay fish and were made to stop the spread of fires.

8. K36 The Bar & Rooftop

One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of art is through juxtaposition, as can be seen at K36 The Bar & Rooftop. The bar portion of this establishment is housed in a former classroom, complete with wooden tables and a blackboard. Then, there’s the rooftop, which embodies everything modern, from the sleek bar and contemporary lighting to breathtaking views of the Kyoto city skyline.

9. Maiko Kyoto

Arguably the most internationally renowned form of Japanese art is the traditional performance art of the geiko (also known as geisha). A maiko is essentially a geiko in training. Throughout Kyoto, watch geikos and maikos alike perform traditional Japanese songs and dances.

10. Ishigaki Snorkeling

Despite traditional definitions of the term “art,” art does not always have to be made. Rather, it can simply occur in nature, as it does with the beautiful coral reefs of Ishigaki. With brightly colored polyps, eye-catching patterns, and unique shapes, there’s no question of why the coral reefs of Ishigaki are considered to be flawless works of art.


Picture-perfect Japan awaits.

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