TOPTokyo LifeGuides & Insights10 Exhibitions to See This Month in and Near Tokyo: December 2020

10 Exhibitions to See This Month in and Near Tokyo: December 2020

Tokyo Weekender’s guide to the must-see exhibitions for lovers of art, history and culture

By Anna Maude

For many of us, December is usually a month of parties, social gatherings, twinkling lights, excessive amounts of food and drink, and plenty of good cheer. With travel and large gatherings still restricted, this year will be a bit different to normal, but there is no need to forego the good cheer. A healthy dose of seasonal spirit can be found in simply making a trip to the city — and visiting an exhibition is a great reason to get out and about. Art has the power to make us look and think about our surroundings a little differently, which would be particularly useful this holiday season. Most museums and galleries are open and undergoing stringent safety measures to keep staff and visitors safe. So if you are hoping for a bit of culture and fun this December, consider these ten exhibitions taking place in the capital this month.

1. ‘Garden of Life’: Eight Contemporary Artists Venture into Nature

The coronavirus has forced all of us to reexamine our daily lives and routines, and for many of us, this has meant a rediscovering of the joys of nature. This exhibition taps into this communal longing and respect for the natural world, asking eight contemporary Japanese artists to explore the relationship between humans and nature. The brief is to look beyond everyday consciousness to discover beauty and meaning in the ‘Garden of Life.’ We could all do with appreciating the usually overlooked little things surrounding us, so this exhibition is perfectly timed. The beautiful European and Japanese gardens of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Gallery allow visitors to minimize time spent indoors while still maximizing their visitor experience. December is the month the autumn leaves are at their best, making the garden the perfect place to consider the themes of the exhibition. If you have brought kids, it is also a good place for them to blow off some steam. 

Coronavirus prevention measures: Thorough prevention measures have been taken, including temperature checks on arrival, compulsory mask wearing for visitors and staff, hand sanitizers provided throughout the museum, and ventilation, cleaning and disinfection throughout the building. 

Until: Jan. 12, 2021
WhereTokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Gallery, 5-21-9 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥400-¥1,000

2. Eiko Ishioka: Blood, Sweat and Tears – A Life of Design

This is the world’s first large-scale retrospective of the work of designer Eiko Ishioka. Her distinctive design had an impact in many fields, including advertising, films, opera, theater, circuses, music videos, and projects for the Olympic Games. Her work was intentionally challenging, often attempting to rethink traditional frameworks such as gender and race. Ishioka’s long career spanned a period of significant change both in Japan and internationally, from her early ad campaigns in the 1960s, through to her celebrated costume designs of the 2010s. Her creative ambition and strive for originality in the mammoth entertainment industry make for a fascinating body of work. 

Coronavirus prevention measures: The museum states that it will adhere to relevant guidelines and take necessary measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Until: Feb. 14, 2021
WhereMuseum of Contemporary Art Tokyo4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥700-¥1,800

3. GIGA MANGA: From Edo Giga to Modern Manga

The premise of this exhibition is that modern Manga originated in the form of caricature from the Edo Period known as Giga. Much like western caricatures from the same period, Ukiyo-e giga could be comical or critical in tone and focused on many areas of daily life, such as political and social interactions. They, therefore, provide a fascinating insight into the ways of thinking of the time, particularly in relation to the poor who are generally underrepresented in historical documentation. The exhibition looks at the evolution of this form of pictorial expression from the Giga of the Edo Period to satirical manga magazines of the Meiji and Taisho Periods, up to children’s comics from the World War II era.

Coronavirus prevention measures: The museum space is thoroughly disinfected, and handrails, elevator buttons, toilet-handles, and taps, are disinfected several times a day. All visitors and staff wear masks. Virus splash prevention panels are installed, and admission may be restricted. Temperature checks are carried out before admission to the museum. 

Until: Jan. 24, 2021
Where: The Sumida Hokusai Museum, 2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥400-¥1,200

© Studio Ghibli © Museo d’Arte Ghibli

4. “Sketch, Flash, Spark!” ~ From the Ghibli Forest Sketchbook

This exhibition presents a behind the scenes look at the creation process of Studio Ghibli’s famous animator Hayao Miyazaki. The highly personal and spirited impression left by viewing sketches allows the audience a glimpse into the artist’s mind, and given the tremendous output and popularity of Miyazaki, this exhibition should delight both fans and those new to his work alike. The exhibition covers his preparatory work for films such as Spirited Away, as well as for the design of the Ghibli Museum itself. There is also an opportunity for visitors to get a sense of being on board the Cat Bus from My Neighbor Totoro, which will surely delight any young (and not so young) visitors.

Coronavirus prevention measures: Visitors are required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and disinfect their hands. The museum regularly disinfects the building and applies anti-virus coating to areas that are easy to touch. It is thoroughly ventilated, and all staff wear masks and have temperature checks. Screens are used, and an electronic ticket system has been introduced.

Until: May 2021
Where: The Ghibli Museum1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka City, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥100-¥1,000. All admission is by advanced reservation only.

From the series Bangkok, Hanoi, “Back street behind Hua Lamphong Station (Bangkok’s central station). Early morning,” 1982 – 1987, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

5. Seto Masato: Maps of Memory

For over half a century, Masato Seto has traveled back and forth between Japan and Thailand, photographing the lifestyles, faces, local customs, and natural settings that he encountered. For Seto, these photographs are more than just documents, but memories, and brought together, they become ‘Maps of Memory.’ The photographs are intimate and revealing, and include images from every period in his career.

If you have made the journey, there are two further exhibitions on show. First is another part of the ongoing series ‘History of Early Japanese Photography’, focusing on the Kanto Region. Secondly, there is ‘Space Odyssey of 13.8 billion light-years’, a fascinating exhibition of astrophotography focusing on NASA images. For anyone interested in space, this is a must-see. Both are on display throughout December.

Coronavirus prevention measures: Visitors are required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and disinfect their hands. The museum regularly disinfects and ventilates the building. All staff wear masks and have temperature checks. Screens are used, and seating has been rearranged to promote social distancing. Visitor numbers are restricted, and many services have been suspended – check the website for further details.

Until: Jan. 24, 2021
Where: Tokyo Photographic Art MuseumYebisu Garden Place, 1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥350-¥1,000

Image for illustration purpose only.

6. Ancient Egypt: The Creation of the World

The Edo-Tokyo Museum is displaying roughly 130 masterpieces from the Egyptian Museum of Berlin. Artifacts are displayed alongside animations to bring to life Ancient Egyptian mythology. Peculiar similarities between Egyptian and Japanese mythology are highlighted. Some of the objects are exhibited in Japan for the first time.

Coronavirus prevention measures: Visitors are required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and disinfect their hands. The museum regularly disinfects and ventilates the building. All staff wear masks and have temperature checks. Screens are used, and seating has been rearranged to promote social distancing. The flow of visitors is also monitored and controlled. Visitors numbers are restricted, and many services have been suspended – check the website for further details.

Until: Jan. 24, 2021
Where: Edo-Tokyo Museum1-4-1, Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥800-¥1,600

7.  Time Flows: Reflections by 5 artists

The act of noticing and recording that which is only tangible on the edge of our consciousness is the premise taken up by the five artists in this exhibition. It is another exhibition that attempts to make sense of the tumultuous events of 2020, this time by considering the flow of time and how we perceive and process the fleeting and minute in our everyday lives. Tomoki Imai, Tamotsu Kido, Tokihiro Sato, Masaharu Sato and Lee Kit are represented. 

Coronavirus prevention measures: Visitors are required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and disinfect their hands. Efforts are made to disinfect and ventilate the building regularly. All staff wear masks and gloves and have temperature checks. Screens are used, and hand sanitizer is provided throughout the building. 

Until: Jan. 11, 2021
Where: Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, 4-7-25 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥500-¥1,100
Note: A reservation is required to visit the museum. All photography is prohibited.

Ending Soon…

8. National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties in the Nezu Collection

Highlights of the Nezu Museum’s outstanding collection are on display in this commemorative exhibition of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the museum. Many treasures of East Asian arts and crafts can be seen together in the beautiful setting of the Nezu Museum, such as the painting Irises By Ogata Korin and the ceramic Tea Leaf Jar with Temple in Mountain designed by Nonomura Ninsei. The gardens of the Nezu Museum are arguably worth the visit alone, making this another good choice for those looking to minimize time spent indoors.

Until: Dec. 20, 2020
Where: Nezu Museum6-5-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥1,200-¥1,500
Note: A reservation is required to visit the exhibition.

Image for illustration purpose only.

9. Rediscovering Japan through Ukiyo-e 

This exhibition is a reflection on the traditional Japanese way of living as seen through Ukiyo-e. It is a celebration of uniquely Japanese images and sensibilities and provides the visitor the opportunity to appreciate Japan’s traditions, customs, nature and history during this difficult period when travel abroad is restricted. 

Until: Dec. 13, 2020
Where: Ota Memorial Museum of Art1-10-10 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. Map
Admission: ¥600-¥800

10.  Tenkukaikatsu – Meiji Jingu Forest: Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition

If you would prefer to avoid enclosed spaces entirely but still want to see some art in Tokyo, then this is a good option. The work of four artists can be discovered in the shrine’s forest grounds, making this an entertaining way to expose your children to a different way of viewing and thinking about art and nature. 

Until: Dec. 13, 2020
Where: Meiji Jingu Forest Festival of ArtMeiji Jingu Inner Shrine. Map
Admission: Free

Looking for other events? Check put our Event Page!