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Hidden away behind Roppongi Station, the National Art Center, Tokyo has no permanent display. In that sense, it is a venue that hosts ever-changing art exhibitions. With its 12 galleries, the National Art Center, Tokyo can hold a variety of exhibitions at the same time, which means that you are bound to find something that appeals to you. Access to the National Art Center Tokyo is generally free, but some special exhibits may require tickets.
Designed by Renowned Architect Kisho Kurokawa
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Since opening in 2007, this stunning structure designed by Kisho Kurokawa has been considered one of Tokyo’s most impressive and flexible art spaces. On first approaching, you will find yourself looking up into glass and steel waves which form the expansive, light-filled atrium at the entrance.
Built on old University of Tokyo campus grounds, the museum is a prime example of the Metabolism movement that Kurokawa helped found and joins a number of other galleries and international structures designed by the leading architect. This kinetic concept of forward-looking change extends to the unique way the museum operates.
The stylishly minimalistic gallery has 14,000 square meters of exhibition space, making it one of the country’s biggest. In addition to galleries, you will also find a gift store, plenty of public seating, and a cafe that some of you eagle-eyed anime fans may recognize from the hit 2016 anime film Your Name (君の名は Kimi no Na wa).
Entry Fees and Exhibits
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As you enter the museum grounds, you will notice the prominent ticket booth to the right. Entry to the museum itself is free, but the booth sells exhibition tickets, which are needed only for the ‘special exhibitions’ of which there are always one or two occupying the galleries on the ground floor of the complex.
The paid exhibits are often blockbuster-style events covering all facets of the art world, from European classics to explorations of Japanese manga. The price of entry varies but generally sits around the ¥1,200–¥1,600 range for adults.
The gallery also often hosts Artist Associations’ Exhibitions; these take up a lot of real estate within the space. These exhibits are run by art organizations—for example, the Japan Watercolour Federation—and entry is typically ¥700 for adults. Often there are anywhere between one and four of these exhibits happening at the one time.
Depending on the day, there are free shows too. If you want to know what is showing for free, enquire at the information desk on the ground floor when you arrive, or ask at the ticket booth.
If you present a ticket from an artist association’s exhibition currently happening at the National Art Center, guests are eligible for a discount for an ongoing special exhibition.
As part of the “Art Triangle Roppongi” initiative, there is a thing called an ATRo Saving discount system. If you show an entrance ticket stub of an ongoing exhibition at Suntory Museum of Art or Mori Art Museum, you are entitled to a reduced entry price (¥200 off) at The National Art Center.
The Atrium: Cafes and Shops
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As you enter the gallery, the first space you will come across is the atrium, where you will find the museum shop named Souvenir From Tokyo. This shop stocks a wide range of artistic gift ideas and souvenirs and also has its very own tiny gallery, the SFT Gallery.
A restaurant occupies each of the four floors of the gallery. Brasserie Paul Bocuse Le Musée on the third floor is a French restaurant spearheaded by celebrity chef Paul Bocuse. It’s open for lunch (11 am until 4 pm) and dinner (4 pm until 9 pm). On the second floor sits Salon de Thé Rond, which serves coffee, cakes, tea, and wine, from 11 am until 6 pm daily and until 7 pm on Fridays.
On the first floor, you will find Café Coquille (opens at 10 am) and on the basement Cafétéria Carré (opens at 11 am). Both offer smaller lunch-style snacks, coffee and cakes and they stay open until 6 pm. There is also a free relaxation area with designer chairs on the basement level and entrance to the ‘Art Library’ on the third floor, where you can take a load off.
The National Art Center, Tokyo
Roppongi Station (Exit 7) on the Hibiya and Oedo Subway Lines
Nogizaka Station (Exit 6) on the Chiyoda Subway Line
Varies per exhibition or screening
10am – 6pm
Closed on Tuesdays and during New Year’s holidays