While Kyoto lacks some of the vibrancy of Tokyo’s contemporary arts scene, it holds all the cards when it comes to traditional art and architecture. You only need to wander the streets of Gion or Higashiyama, follow the paths of a perfectly laid-out and manicured Japanese garden or admire the structure and craftsmanship of one of Kyoto’s many temples or shrines to realize the importance that Japanese art, religion and aesthetics have had upon this ancient city and its people.
That said, however, Kyoto does have its own modern art museum and a burgeoning arts scene that is fostering new talent and making itself known to visiting art lovers and collectors. Here’s our quick guide to the city’s best art museums:
Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art, Okazaki Enshoji-cho, Sakyo-ku. Closed Mondays.
If you visit only one art museum, make it MOMAK. Several collection galleries feature Japanese and Western-style paintings, prints, sculpture, crafts and photography. You’ll find Kyoto’s best modern artworks here as well as some contemporary European and American artists work. There’s an exciting calendar of contemporary exhibitions, events and movies.
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Okazaki Park, Sakyo-ku. Closed Mondays.
Opposite the National Museum of Modern Art, this museum houses a more traditional collection of 18th and 19th century paintings and artworks, and has permanent collections by Kyoto artists. Temporary exhibitions regularly feature Japanese or international art.
Hosomi Art Museum, 6-3 Okazaki, Saishoji-cho. Closed Mon.
Feast your eyes on ancient artifacts and religious art at this modern-looking private museum. The collections here are littered with historic treasures including Buddhist and Shinto works, with many of the precious objects originally belonging to Kyoto and Nara’s most revered shrines and temples.