The Nezu Museum has to be my favourite museum in Tokyo – it is so beautiful, not just the architecture and exhibits inside, but also the outside and the beautiful surrounding garden. It is an oasis of calm in the heart of Tokyo.
The museum is home to pre-modern Japanese and East Asian art that was collected by Nezu Kaichirō, an industrialist and president of the Tobu railway. The site of the museum and garden used to be his private residence, which he bought in 1906. After his death in 1940, his son founded the museum to preserve the collection.
In World War II however, the museum and gardens were severely destroyed. The exhibitions were restarted after the war in 1946, and the museum was renovated from 2006 to 2009, with a completely new museum building by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. The new building is stunning, a wonderful mix between classic and modern design.
The inside is small, but beautiful. The permanent exhibition includes works of calligraphy, sculpture, ceramics and textiles, and is on display in the entrance hall and on the top floor.
A special exhibition is shown on the ground floor – I had seen wonderful masterpieces by Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) in the context of waka poetry, as well as a special 75th anniversary exhibition that featured magnificent paintings, calligraphies and tea utensils.
But the highlight is the hilly garden, which spans 17,000 square meters and features numerous winding paths, two ponds, a teahouse and several Buddha and Kan’non statue.
There is a small cafe, which serves salads, pasta and sandwiches. Plus a lovely little tea house, which is only open for special occasions – we were lucky that we visited the Iris exhibition during its final weekend, and for 1,000 Yen per person we enjoyed a bowl of matcha tea and a delicate sweet made of green tea in the shape of flowers.
The Nezu Museum and its beautiful garden are open daily from 10am to 5pm, closed on Mondays and during exhibition changes.