Explore Japan’s Most Interesting – and Strange – Museums

ByBert Wishart
Feb 26, 2021

Explore Japan’s Most Interesting – and Strange – Museums

Whether it is to pass the time on your own, a destination for a first date, a way to entertain the kids, or to satisfy a burning thirst for knowledge, nothing quite beats a trip to a museum. But what do you do if you’ve exhausted all of the regular destinations?

Fortunately, Japan has a wide array of weird and wonderful museums for you to explore, many of them exhibiting things that even in your wildest dreams you wouldn’t think required a single room, let alone entire museums.

If wacky, strange, and unusual ticks your boxes for a day out, read on…

The Sand Museum – Tottori

Tottori is well known for its beautiful expanse of rolling sand dunes, so much so that it was the inspiration for acclaimed author Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes. Today it is the inspiration for more image-led artists, and at the Sand Museum, you can witness some of the most staggering sand sculptures in the world.

‘Just sandcastles,’ you say? Imagine intricate representations of The Great Wall of China and entire Slovakian towns. Bullies, kick it down if you dare!

Where: Fukubecho Yuyama, Tottori  (map)
Website: sand-museum.jp

Cup Noodles Museum – Yokohama

You may take instant ramen for granted, but it was something of a revelation when Momofuku Ando invented it in 1958. The Cup Noodles Museum is a fun, interactive, and instructive exploration of all things noodles.

From exhibitions showing the humble instant noodle’s history to the hands-on experience of designing your own cup noodle – from packaging to filling – it’s a day that – via Ando’s ‘Space Ramen’ – is out of this world.

Where: 2 Chome-3-4 Shinko, Naka Ward, Yokohama  (map)
Website: cupnoodles-museum.jp

Cat Alley – Onomichi

Hidden away on the slopes of Mt. Senko-ji is Cat Alley (Neko no Hosomichi). Onomichi has a special relationship with our feline friends, and you will find many cats wandering around as if they own the place. This is nowhere more apparent than Cat Alley, a roughly 200m road that extends from Ushitora Shrine’s edge up to the three-storied pagoda of Tenneiji temple.

Here you will find museums, cafes, and statues all dedicated to Onomichi’s favorite animal. All along the route are placed ‘fukuishi-neko’ (lucky stones decorated to look like cats), all of which were painted by local artist Shunji Sonoyama. And if you still haven’t had your moggie fill, there is an exhibition of some 3,000 maneki-neko (beckoning cats) also curated by Sonoyama.

Where: 19-26 Higashitsuchidocho, Onomichi (map)

Poop Museum – Tokyo

As the book tells us, everybody does it. But perhaps only the Japanese would have an entire museum dedicated to it. The Unko (poop) Museum celebrates the kawaii and cute aspects of bodily waste.

Thankfully, the interactive (coined the UNteractive) area isn’t quite how it sounds. However, there are many fun activities for kids and grownups alike to enjoy, not to mention some great instagamable opportunities. And don’t worry, the Poop Factory is an area where you see where their products are made, and nothing more…

Where: Tokyo, Koto City, Aomi, 1 Chome-1-10, DiverCity Tokyo Plaza, 2nd floor  (map)
Website: unkomuseum.com

Meguro Parasitological Museum – Tokyo

I don’t know if the Japanese have a word for the sensation of being simultaneously intrigued and disgusted – I don’t know if there’s one in English, for that matter: ‘intrusted’ doesn’t sound quite right – but that is the precise feeling that the Meguro Parasitological Museum gives you.

With walls lined with tubes of terrifying bugs, worms, and parasites – including an 8.8-meter long tapeworm – it is an entomophobic’s nightmare. But once you get over the creepiness, it becomes enthralling, enchanting even. Don’t believe me? Well, apparently, it’s even a popular destination for first dates. Really.

Where: 4 Chome-1-1 Shimomeguro, Meguro City  (map)
Website: kiseichu.org

Image: By U.S. Army Garrison Japan  via flickr.com [CC BY NC-ND 2.0]
Image: By  Vojtech Plesak via flickr.com [CC BY NC-ND 2.0]
Image: By Michael Saechang  via flickr.com [CC BY NC-ND 2.0]
Image: Via https://unkomuseum.com/tokyo/
Image: By Guilhem Vellut via flickr.com [CC BY NC-ND 2.0]



About the author

Bert Wishart editor

Novelist, copywriter and graduate from the most prestigious university in Sunderland, Bert whiles away his precious time on this Earth by writing about popular culture, travel, food and pretty much anything else that is likely to win him the Pulitzer he desperately craves.

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