On our day off in Tokyo we made our way to Ueno in order to check out a hot tip from our friend Olympia Le-Tan: the Tokyo National Museum. Okay, so it's not exactly hidden, but somehow, among the endless shopping malls and towers and parks in Tokyo it had evaded our radar on all of our trips there so far. So with the promise of ancient Japanese art and real samurai armor to be found, Tokyo National Museum found its way to the top of our To Do lists.

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And as we quickly found out, we'd really been missing out. The museum has been in Ueno Park since 1882 and holds an amazing collection of every kind of historical Japanese artifact imaginable. The museum takes you through Japanese history, starting with 12,000 year old pottery and then into the early common era with the adorable Haniwa terra-cotta statues used in burial rituals.

But perhaps most impressive, and what we were most excited to see, was the collection of genuine samurai armor, all of which was in nearly perfect condition. The sheer size and complicated designs of these armored outfits, from the metal and woven steel in the protective plates to the enormous and often dragon-adorned helmets, to the various ropes and tassels and carvings holding it all together, makes these a seriously awesome sight. Don't overlook this site on your next Tokyo trip!


The museum then gets expansive with its collection of artifacts from the 10th to the 19th century. There is a massive collection of hilarious Koh and Kabuki theater masks of people and animals, countless watercolor paintings on scrolls and folding screens, and beautifully painted dishes, hand mirrors, fans and boxes. The enormous collection of kimonos with intricate and often strikingly modern patterns is one of the many impressive and inspiring parts of the museum.

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