There’s nothing like experiencing Japanese culture at the source, but for our American readers without the time or means to travel, enjoying it at home is the next best thing!
Across the country there are a huge number of Japanese art exhibtions in US museums, as well as museums and galleries dedicated to Japanese culture and history, showcasing the deep reverence the two nations have for each other’s creative techniques and cultural practices. At the same time, various Japanese American museums provide fascinating insights into the fraught but symbiotic nature of the ongoing connection between Japan and the United States.
From New York to LA, and from Seattle to Florida, we provide a comprehensive list of the best Japanese art, culture, and history museums located in the United States.
1. Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
Perched in downtown San Francisco just across from City Hall and a verdant public park is the immense Asian Art Museum. Spanning centuries and cultures, this comprehensive gallery showcases over 18,000 stunning artworks.
Though the museum covers all of Asia, significant permanent and visiting exhibitions concentrate on Japan. In fact, works exclusively from Japan make up the museum’s second largest collection after China.
The Japanese collection features 5500 permanent pieces, including suits of samurai armor, paintings, ceramics, and priceless artifacts.
Address: 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5pm Tues-Sun (extended hours until 9pm some Thursdays)
2. LACMA Pavilion for Japanese Art, Los Angeles
The Pavilion for Japanese Art is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s dedicated space for all things Japanese. The architectural marvel is located just off the beaten path, in a quiet nook of the sprawling museum grounds between LACMA and the famous La Brea Tar Pits.
Housing gorgeous costumes, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, and other works of craftsmanship, the winding exhibition takes visitors upwards to view the immense collection. Walls made of translucent fiberglass allow natural light to bathe the art in a warm glow.
The Cherry Blossom collection features gorgeous, cherry blossom themed art such as painted scrolls, decorated ceramics, and a small but intricate costume accessory carved from ivory.
LACMA Pavilion for Japanese Art is undergoing renovations but will reopen in 2020.
Address: Pavilion for Japanese Art, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (see map)
Hours: Temporarily closed
3. The Huntington, San Marino, California
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collective promoting research and education in Southern California. The library and art museum focus mainly on American and European works, though Japanese texts and artifacts are included in the collections.
Head outside to the lush botanical gardens, and it’s as if you’ve suddenly stepped into Japan. Open since 1928, the gorgeous Japanese Garden spared no expense creating an authentic Japanese experience. Featuring an arched moon bridge, a fully furnished Japanese house, hundreds of bonsai trees, and a ceremonial tea house, the garden is about as genuine as it gets. It’s easy to see why it’s become one of The Huntington’s most lauded and iconic features.
Address: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5pm Wed-Mon
4. Japanese American Museum of San Jose
Showcasing a collection of permanent and rotating historical exhibits, the Japanese American Museum of San Jose chronicles over a century of Japanese American history, with a focus on the California Bay Area.
The museum was founded in 1987, prompted by a research project on Japanese American farmers which took place from 1984 to 1986. The project collected historical artifacts such as documents, memoirs, and photographs. These became the foundation of the museum's collection.
The museum is located in the historic residence of medical doctor Tokio Ishikawa. Visitors learn about Japanese immigration to America, their pioneering agricultural efforts, WWII internment, and the challenges they faced adapting to life on the West Coast.
Address: 535 N 5th St, San Jose, CA 95112 (see map)
Hours: 12pm to 4pm Thurs-Sun
5. Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles
Located in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, this human rights museum details the history and culture of Japanese Americans. Its mission is to encourage an understanding and appreciation of America's ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing what early Japanese immigrants went through to be accepted in their adopted home.
Though small, the space is rich with history. Artifacts are on display alongside interactive, multimedia exhibitions focusing primarily on WWII era internment camps. The museum provides an emotional glimpse into the trials of Japanese Americans, especially poignant in the current era.
Address: 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (see map)
Hours: 11am to 5pm Tues, Wed, Fri–Sun; 12pm to 8pm every Thurs
6. Hammond Museum & Japanese Stroll Garden, New York
Combining art exhibitions with a walkable estate, the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden provides a gateway to Japanese arts and culture.
Created by artist and traveler Natalie Hays Hammond from her own home in 1957, both the museum and gardens remain stunning, serene displays of Japanese craftsmanship and design. Seminars, workshops, performance pieces, and art exhibitions are hosted regularly. Visiting exhibitions don’t always feature Japanese art or artists as the goal of the museum is to showcase the intersection of both Eastern and Western cultures.
Address: 28 Deveau Rd, North Salem, NY 10560 (see map)
Hours: 12pm to 4pm Wed-Sat (April to November)
Website: hammondmuseum .org
7. The Noguchi Museum, New York
Located in a vibrant district of Queens, the Noguchi Museum was founded by acclaimed Japanese-American artist and activist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) in 1985.
Designed by Noguchi himself, the museum houses what he considered his greatest life’s works. The museum was developed around a 1920s industrial building and features both indoor and outdoor galleries as well as a sculpture garden.
Noguchi’s work encompassed sculpture, illustration, and interior and set design. He influenced a generation of contemporary artists with his seminal pieces, many of which remain on permanent display at the museum.
Address: 9-01 33rd Rd, Queens, NY 11106 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5pm Wed-Fri, 11am to 6pm Sat & Sun
8. Japan Society, New York
Japan Society is more than a museum—it’s an American nonprofit organization aiming to bring the people of Japan and America closer through mutual understanding, appreciation, and cooperation.
Founded in 1907, it was created by prominent NYC businessmen and later supported by the famous Rockefeller family.
Today, Japan Society acts as a cultural center where all are invited to attend events like art exhibitions, film screenings, performances, and workshops. Lectures on topics from business to policy as well as language classes are also offered. Don’t forget to check out the stunning indoor garden which features a cascading waterfall.
Address: 333 E 47th St, New York, NY 10017 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 6pm Mon-Fri
9. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art has served as a treasure trove of rare objects since its inception in 1870 - its collection of Asian art is the largest and most comprehensive in the US.
The Met houses so much Japanese art that its selection of textiles, prints, and paintings rotate every few months. Such items are continuously on display as well as sacred artifacts and profane artworks that span from the Neolithic era to the present.
Don’t miss the Shoin Room, a recreation of a 17th-century guesthouse located near Kyoto. It was constructed in 1989 by Japanese craftsmen using materials and techniques authentic to Japan’s Momoyama period (1573-1615). The room includes a tatami floor, sliding doors, and gilded screens.
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5:50pm Sun-Thurs, 10am to 9pm Fri & Sat
10. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
MFA Boston’s Asian art collection features pieces from all over the continent, yet the museum’s finest works are Japanese. The collection of early Buddhist paintings and sculptures, elaborate Noh masks, and Kano school paintings rival that of museums actually in Japan.
The highlight is the Art of the Japanese Postcard collection which includes 20,000 postcards depicting rich tableaus of Japan as it modernized at the turn of the 19th century.
The on-site Objects Conservation Laboratory dates to 1902, the year Japanese art connoisseur and lacquerware expert Shisui Rokkaku arrived to catalog and restore the museum’s lacquer collection. Today, the lab aims to restore artifacts and improve conservation methods.
Address: 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5pm Sat-Tues, 10am to 10pm Wed-Fri
11. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington
The Smithsonian has two facilities focusing on Asian art: the Freer Gallery of Art, which dates to 1923, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, which opened in 1987. Known together as Freer|Sackler, both museums are located in the National Mall in Washington DC
Together, the collection of Asian art reaches over 40,000 pieces. From Japan, books, calligraphy, ceramics, lacquer, paintings, and photographs – both traditional and contemporary – are displayed. It was actually from Japan that founder Charles Lang Freer purchased his very first Asian art piece: a painted Japanese fan.
Address: 1050 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5:30pm daily
12. Art Institute Chicago
Chicago’s #1 art attraction is this sprawling, downtown art museum. Founded in 1879, Art Institute Chicago has grown into a cutting edge gallery with almost 300,000 works in its permanent collection and over 1.5 million visitors per year.
Works of art in the museum’s Asian collection span 5,000 years and includes items of both artistic and archaeological importance. Many are from Japan - Hokusai’s The Great Wave is available for viewing as are early artistic prints and gorgeous woven textiles. An expertly curated gallery dedicated entirely to Japanese folding screens evokes breathtaking awe and meditative contemplation.
Address: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 (see map)
Hours: Every day 10:30am to 5pm (extended hours until 8pm on Thursdays)
13. Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art has housed a splendid collection of international art for over a century. Japanese books and decorative art objects were among the first pieces donated to the museum’s collection, which now numbers approximately 240,000.
An authentic Japanese tea house where political and financial leaders once dined is included in the Asian art exhibit. The ceremonial tea house was built around 1917 by the Japanese architect Ogi Rodo, who later sold it to the museum. It’s the only piece of Ogi Rodo construction outside Japan.
Ceramics, paintings, sculptures, and other articles – both modern and antique – are also on display. A famous painting by Monet of a Japanese bridge, while not Asian in origin, is a must-see.
Address: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5pm Tues-Sun (extended hours until 8:45pm on Wed & Fri)
14. Seattle Art Museum’s Asian Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum features works from creators around the world, but its collection of Asian art is so vast an entire building is dedicated to it. The SAM’s Asian art is housed in a 1933 art deco building and contains world-renowned works from Korea to Pakistan.
From Japan, golden sculptures of the Buddha, silk robes worn in Noh performances, and illustrated golden screens dating to the 17th century are displayed alongside ancient ceramics and timeless paintings.
The museum’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas hosts public programs, such as lectures and book signings, to introduce visitors to diverse perspectives on Asia’s cultural traditions and modern-day issues.
SAM’s Asian Art Museum is undergoing renovations but will reopen in the fall of 2019.
Address: 1400 E Prospect St, Seattle, WA 98112 (see map)
Hours: Temporarily closed
15. Portland Japanese Garden
Traversing 12 acres of woodsy Oregon land, the Portland Japanese Garden is widely regarded as the most stunning of Japanese gardens in the US. Eight unique garden areas brim with koi filled ponds, lush moss covered stones, and zigzagging paths winding through firs and cedars.
Located in the midst of all the greenery is the Cultural Village, a center promoting Japanese arts through art exhibitions, cultural demonstrations, performances, and seasonal activities. Designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, the Cultural Village also includes a cafe, courtyard, and replica of a Japanese castle wall.
Address: 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205 (see map)
Hours: 12pm to 7pm Mondays, 10am to 7pm Tues-Sun
16. Crow Museum of Asian Art, Dallas
Adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art stands the Crow Museum. Established by art collectors Margaret and Trammell Crow in 1998, this museum is dedicated solely to their massive collection of Asian art. Individual galleries are devoted to different regions.
In the Japan gallery, works from 1000 BCE to the present day are featured—the many pieces include ceramics, metalworks, and screen paintings spanning across ages. A large bell dating from the Edo period (1603-1868), an ornately decorated lacquer chest, and intricate sculptures featuring crystal spheres are among the most majestic.
Address: 2010 Flora St, Dallas, TX 75201 (see map)
Hours: 11am to 5pm Tues-Sun
17. World War II Japanese American Internment Museum
Though only founded in 2013, the Japanese American Internment Museum opened to much fanfare, including an appearance by George Takei of Star Trek fame.
Mr Takei was only a child when he was interred in a concentration camp. Like him, tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were incarcerated across the US during the war with Japan.
Housed in a historic railway depot in Arkansas, the museum chronicles the lives of these Japanese Americans at two nearby camps – Rohwer (where Mr Takei was placed) and Jerome. By viewing artifacts from the camps as well as media exhibits, visitors are introduced to the challenges faced by over 17,000 individuals.
Address: 100 S Railroad St, McGehee, AR 71654 (see map)
Hours: 9am to 4pm Tues-Sat
18. New Orleans Museum of Art
Located in the sprawling greenery of City Park, the gorgeous New Orleans Museum of Art is home to an incredible selection of Asian art.
The museum’s permanent collection includes almost 40,000 objects, many of which are Japanese – suits of samurai armor, ancient ceramics, and intricate paintings are some of the highlights. Japanese artists are featured in the adjacent sculpture garden and an impressive Japanese garden is on the grounds as well.
NOMA is the site of the city’s annual Japan Fest. This one-day festival celebrates all things Japan through music, dance, fashion, and food and is the largest celebration of Japanese culture in the region.
Address: 1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA 70124 (see map)
Hours: 10am-6pm Tues-Thurs, 10am-9pm Fri, and 10am-5pm Sat & Sun
19. The National WWII Museum, New Orleans
Formerly the D-Day Museum (the amphibious vehicles that landed the Allies in France in 1944 were manufactured just down the street), the National WWII Museum is undergoing a massive expansion thanks to its new name and status.
The museum now covers every aspect of WWII and Japan takes center stage in The Road to Tokyo. This massive exhibition details the Pacific War through oral histories, video footage, and life-sized recreations of battle scenes.
Though from the Allied perspective, insight into what the Japanese were going through on both sides of the Pacific is included, as well as incredible artifacts such as letters, weapons, and a P-40 Warhawk airplane.
Address: 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (see map)
Hours: Every day 9am to 5pm
20. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, Florida
Lakeside Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a hidden oasis. This tranquil hideaway offers Japanese tea ceremonies, festivals, classes, and even a sushi restaurant.
The museum and gardens were inspired by a century-old connection between Western Japan and Southern Florida. In 1904, a Japanese farming colony formed in the area; the museum, which opened in 1977, includes a permanent exhibition chronicling the failed but influential Yamato Colony.
Rotating exhibitions are also featured as well as programs for adults and children such as cultural demos, nature strolls, and workshops.
Address: 4000 Morikami Park Rd, Delray Beach, FL 33446 (see map)
Hours: 10am to 5pm Tues-Sun