With Japan finally reopening to tourists from all over the world, it is time to talk about one of my favorite cities in the world, Tokyo, and its amazing contemporary art scene. It is no secret that I completely fell in love with the city during my (unfortunately) only trip there, and ever since then, I have been planning to go back.
Tokyo is a magical place, where new and old coexist and collide, and its many districts all have a different taste and some amazing attractions. Today, after talking about Roppongi, I want to share three places I absolutely loved in Ginza. Bonus point, they all have free entrance!
Ginza is located right in the heart of Tokyo, and it is one of the districts that originally formed the ancient city of Edo. It is an upscale neighborhood, and a popular shopping area, with many national and international brands and boutiques, as well as department stores and fancy restaurants. And of course many contemporary art galleries and art destinations for art lovers.
The area is not particularly vast, but it is packed with things to do, amazing shops to visit, places to try, and food to taste.
The best time to visit the neighborhood is definitely the weekend. In fact, each Saturday and Sunday, from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., the main street through Ginza is closed off to road traffic, allowing people to walk freely. This is called Hokōsha Tengoku (歩行者天国), which literally means “pedestrian heaven”. So, if you are in the area and want to enjoy some contemporary art while shopping, here are three contemporary art destinations in Ginza you really shouldn’t miss.
The Shiseido Gallery is more like an art center than a commercial gallery, but it is an amazing place to start discovering the contemporary art scene of Ginza. Located right in the middle of the area, it was first opened in 1919, and it is said to be the oldest art gallery still operating in Japan.
Over the years, it continued working and exhibiting national and international artists almost continuously, closing only occasionally due to big events, such as earthquakes and wars.
As they state on their website, “to date, the Shiseido Gallery has hosted over 3,100 exhibitions, many of which served as the public debut for burgeoning artists who would later make major contributions to the course of Japanese art.”
It is actively dedicated to contemporary art since the 1990s and it moved to its current location in Ginza in 2001, quickly becoming one of the major contemporary art attractions in the neighborhood and in Tokyo as a whole.
Pola Museum Annex
Just a few steps north of the Shiseido Gallery, the Pola Museum Annex is yet another amazing space to discover contemporary art in Tokyo. The exhibition space is located in a beautiful skyscraper and you need to go up to the third floor to access the exhibitions.
Their mission is to “refine people’s sense of beauty and sensibility through art” and for that, they offer free exhibitions in Ginza year round, so you can rest assured that you will find some amazing artists to discover here whenever you visit.
They have a Pola Collection as well as temporary exhibitions, ranging from Western art to local artists. It is the perfect place to get inspired and discover amazing works while shopping in nearby boutiques.
Ginza Tsutaya Books and FOAM contemporary
Also known as “The World’s Best Art Bookstore”, Ginza Tsutaya Books is the perfect location to end your Ginza contemporary art tour. After visiting amazing galleries and exhibitions, you can come here to sit in a cool cafe, read or buy some amazing books and catalogs.
Housing standard books, big books, and valuable vintage texts along with an amazing selection of Japanese stationery, the bookshop stores 60,000 art books from around the globe, from leading figures and institutions to emerging artists.
It also hosts a Starbucks Reserve Bar (not your local Starbucks, but a much fancier version), and a gallery, FOAM Contemporary, where they hold exhibitions and temporary events.
It is the perfect place to relax and restore after a long walk or an amazing starting point to explore the area.