As someone famous once said, the best things in life are free. If you don’t believe it, visit Japan!
For an Asian country notorious for being on the more ‘expensive’ side, Japan has quite a number of free attractions that are surprisingly worth visiting.
More specifically, the free museums in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, are second-rate to none.
Historically, museums have been associated with long-winded history and dull facts. However, this is different with many museums in Tokyo. Long gone are the days when museums are never-ending hallways of dull-white walls and weathered booklets droning on and on about information you can’t keep up with.
Tokyo’s museums are unique and interesting! They carry vast amounts of knowledge that you may not even know existed. From the background of parasites to the history of the Japanese police force, you can prepare yourself and still be surprised at just how much random knowledge there is out there to consume.
Coupled with the fact that entrance into all the below-listed museums is free, and you’ve got yourself a jam-packed itinerary!
Let’s have a look at some of the best free museums in Tokyo that are worth visiting!
1. Meguro Parasitological Museum
If you’ve got a strong stomach and an appetite for science, pop into the Meguro Parasitological Museum for some unusual displays!
This museum was opened in 1953 by Satoru Kamegai, a doctor who was in the thick of the post-war disease-ridden era of Japan. Many patients became sick due to the highly unsanitary and unhygienic living conditions after the war and it was unfortunately widespread across the country.
This museum was designed to show the world just how many parasites had thrived during that period – and they were just the ones collected!
On the second floor, you’ll witness an 8.8m tapeworm taken from the body of a 40-year-old man, and across the entire museum, you’ll get to come across around 300 samples of 45,000 parasites!
The entrance to this museum is free, however, donations are encouraged. You will see a donation box marked at the museum.
- Address: Meguro Parasitological Museum
- Hours: Thurs-Sun: 10:00 am-5:00 pm (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)
2. ADMT Advertising Museum Tokyo
The Advertising Museum Tokyo (ADMT) was opened back in 2002, to commemorate the 100th birthday of Yoshida Hideo, the fourth president of Dentsu. Dentsu is one of the largest advertising agencies in the world and the biggest one in Japan.
This museum was intended to promote the history and understanding of advertising and marketing. You’ll be able to witness advertisements from the Edo period to prominent modern-day examples.
From colorful woodblock prints to 20th-century pop-art advertisements, this museum is fascinating all around. This is a fantastic option for those looking for a different kind of museum experience.
- Address: ADMT Advertising Museum Tokyo
- Hours: Tues-Sat: 12:00 pm-6:00 pm (Closed Sundays and Mondays)
3. Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum
This museum has a history of over 400 years, inclusive of waterworks information pieces from Tokyo’s water infrastructure centuries ago.
On the first floor, you’ll get to see old maps of the original water systems – and yep, they were made of wooden pipes! These water systems were known as ‘josui’. The museum curators have even recreated traditional homes in the Edo period that show just how people accessed water through a well.
You’ll learn how the water system has developed from the Meiji era to where it is now.
- Address: Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum
- Hours: 9:30 am-5:00 pm
4. Yokohama Chocolate Factory & Museum
If there ever were a museum we know everyone would love, it would be the Yokohama Chocolate Factory and Museum.
Here, you’ll get to witness firsthand just how delicate the process of chocolate making is by viewing the chocolatiers through large glass windows. From mixing to packing, the entire process can be viewed and admired from above.
You can then wander around learning about the history of chocolate and the museum at your own pace, enjoy fresh chocolate treats and drinks at the cafe, and purchase some original memorabilia.
- Address: Yokohama Chocolate Factory & Museum
- Hours: 11:00 am-5:30 pm
5. Ochanomizu Origami Kaikan
Origami is a cornerstone of Japanese art. It was one of the first pieces of Japanese culture to seep through its borders and present itself as an art style and activity that anyone around the world could learn and appreciate, and thus its worldwide popularity is comprehensible.
At the Ochanomizu Origami Kaikan, you will not only learn about origami, but you will also have hands-on experience as well!
Purchase instructional books for all levels of origami folding in English, browse the extensive range of origami paper packages in-store, and even try your hand at making washi paper!
- Address: Ochanomizu Origami Kaikan
- Hours: 9:30 am-4:30 pm (Closed Sundays)
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Intermediatheque is definitely one of the best free museums in Tokyo!
It’s a small yet compelling museum dedicated to the intersection of culture, history, and science. It was a joint project run by Japan Post and the University Museum of the University of Tokyo.
You will find fascinating collections of scientific specimens, cultural artifacts, skeletons of all sizes, and captivating little pockets of human history being retold throughout.
The museum itself is tall, moody, and imposing, not dissimilar to that of a castle. If you consider yourself a biology and history buff, this museum would be an awesome experience!
- Address: Intermediatheque
- Hours: Sun-Thurs: 11:00 am-6:00 pm (Closed Mondays), Fri-Sat: 11:00 am-8:00 pm
7. Bank of Japan Currency Museum
There are not many museums around the world dedicated to the coin and currency of a nation, so when given the chance to exhibit one for free, we highly recommend that you take it!
The Bank of Japan Currency Museum was opened back in 1985 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Bank of Japan. Here, you’ll get to witness interesting exhibitions of currency from ancient Japan, to today’s modern society.
From gold coins, currency-related artifacts, and various other cash forms you would not have known about, this museum is a goldmine of currency history and information.
Whilst Japanese currency is the main attraction here, you’ll also get to witness other Asian currencies as well, including rare artifacts rarely seen by the public eye.
- Address: Bank of Japan Currency Museum
- Hours: 9:30 am-4:30 pm (Closed Mondays)
8. Hanzomon Museum
The Hanzomon Museum is a museum that displays an enviable collection of Buddhist art. It is a relatively new museum, having only opened up in 2018, and is owned by the Buddhist organization Shinnyo-en.
Led by Shinso Ito, the daughter of one of the founders, it showcases original artwork by contemporary artists as well as unique and prized Gandharan art which dates back to the second and third centuries CE.
There are various exhibitions throughout the year, but the main collection, located in the basement of the museum, consists of several Gandhara (present-day Pakistan/Afghanistan) sculptures, figurines, and Japanese Buddhist art.
You can explore the various other levels which feature temporary exhibitions, and finally end up on the third floor where you can relax and watch some interesting short films on Buddhism – available in Japanese and English.
- Address: Hanzomon Museum
- Hours: 10:00 am-5:30 pm (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)
9. Meiji University Museum
The Meiji Museum is considered somewhat of a secret museum. Located in the basement of the imposing Meiji University, it features a fascinating mix of exhibits that showcase historical commodities, criminal materials, and archaeology.
You can expect to witness and learn about traditional Japanese handicrafts, including pottery, washi paper, and lacquerware. If you’re into crafts and Japanese culture, you will know that they are serious about their handicrafts over there!
There are also sections of the museum where you can learn about torture methods employed during the end of the 18th century, including ‘haritsuke’ (crucifixion), ‘gokumon’ (decapitation and then publicly showing the head), and ‘ishidaki gougu’ (placing large rocks on the knees of a sitting person).
There is English translation across the museum so you can indulge in the history as much as you want without getting lost!
- Address: Meiji University Museum
- Hours: Mon-Fri: 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Sat: 10:00 am-4:00 pm (Closed Sundays)
10. Tokyo Police Museum
The Police Museum in Tokyo is quintessentially Japanese – you’re hardly likely to find a museum dedicated to showcasing the origins of the police force anywhere else in the world!
Learn about how the police force was founded during the samurai reign and its journey to today’s 50,0000-strong men and women organization.
The museum not only provides fun and unique information about the police, but it also offers activities and experiences as well, making it especially fun for little ones. Dress up as a Tokyo police officer, take photos with life-size police vehicles, and even participate in simulations!
Don’t forget, your experience won’t be complete without a photo with the official mascot of the Tokyo Police Force, Pipo-kun! Find him at the entrance of the museum.
- Address: Tokyo Police Museum
- Hours: 9:30 am-4:00 pm (Closed Mondays)
Love a good freebie? Then this list of absolutely free museums in Tokyo is right up your alley!
We hope you enjoyed reading about all these fun, exciting, and unique museum experiences in Tokyo. Whether you’re budgeting or simply looking to experience more than a food tour and a shopping spree, the free museums sprinkled across Tokyo will surely enlighten your knowledge and provide a memorable way to explore the busiest city in the world.
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