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Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

View more than 100 paintings with historical and cultural significance to Japan, right in the heart of Tokyo.

Long before the advent of television, Internet and modern media platforms, great and historic events were documented for later generations in paintings.

At Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery there is a fascinating collection of paintings covering the reign of Emperor Meiji, who ruled from 1867 until 1912. The Meiji era, as the period is known, was one of the most significant periods in the history of Japan as the country was transforming from a feudal society to a modern, industrialised nation.

The gallery building's architectural design is quite unique in Japan, conveying a stately reverence to the former Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken.

The museum has two wings: one displays 40 paintings in traditional Japanese style and one displays 40 works created in Western style.

Yamanouchi Tamon (1878–1932), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The best way to view the paintings and understand their historical significance is to follow the chronological order of the gallery display. Start with the depictions from the tumultuous collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868.

The admission fee is ¥500. Photography is not allowed inside the gallery but you can get a glimpse at most of the paintings on the gallery's Wikipedia page. It's a great way to have a preview before your visit or a reminder afterwards.

The page also includes a description of the main events of the time and their historical significance. Somewhat unknown among tourists, the gallery is a hidden gem showcasing some of Japan's most significant history and culture. It's location in central Tokyo, in the Shinjuku district, makes it easy to access, with nearby stations served by numerous train and subway lines.

Arai Kampo (1878–1945), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get there

The gallery is a short walk from several stops on the subway: Gaienmae Station (Ginza Line), Aoyama-itchome Station (Hanzomon Line) and Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station (Oedo Line). It can also be accessed via the JR Sobu Line. Alight at Shinanomachi Station or Sendagaya Station.

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