Expand your understanding of Tokyo through innovation

Four museums to visit in the city.

Geo-Cosmos, a three-dimensional display made up of more than 10 million pixels, gives visitors at the Miraikan a chance to view the world like one would from space.
Photograph by Jeremy Piper

Tokyo has long been at the forefront of innovation. For visitors, it’s the world capital of gizmos and cool electronic gear with whole neighbourhoods catering every type of technology obsession. Yet there’s more to Tokyo than geek-chic when it comes to tech, including some amazing science museums and galleries offering a cornucopia of gadgets and visions of the future.

For starters, popular entertainment behemoths Sony, has its ExploraScience pop-up museum. Or maybe Japan’s digital art collective teamLab’s installation teamLab Borderless at the MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM - an installation where the artworks are freeform and move out of the rooms freely, form connections and relationships with exhibition visitors. It’s a vast exhibition space using over 500 computers and more than 450 projectors to create an otherworldly gallery experience.

Without doubt, it’s a city that feels like the future and you can investigate it further by nosing around the electronics and gaming stores of Akihabara at night or explore.

Or you can shop in places like the upmarket Ginza district or the kitsch tech cafes as all of these places are a potential glimpse into the future.

A few suggestions follow representing Tokyo’s yesterday, its today as well as the city’s tomorrow.

LOCATION: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum

THINGS TO SEE AND DO: Though Tokyo can at times feel ultra-modern, there’s history here as well - if you know where to find it. And the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum is one of the best places to get in touch with the city’s past.

You’ll find plenty of historic and significant buildings here that date back to the Tokyo of the mid-20th century, including farmhouses, a “sento”, or public bath, the home of a wealthy politician, and even one of Tokyo’s classic old streetcars. All are open for exploration.

BEST CHOICE: One of the highlights of the museum is the House of Japanese political figure Takahashi Korekiyo, who served as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the 1920s.

LOCATION: Miraikan - The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

THINGS TO SEE AND DO: Tokyo has long been a world leader in the fields of science and innovation, and you can learn all about those advancements with a hands-on experience at Miraikan. This is Japan’s premier science museum, a sprawling complex that features a model of the International Space Station, an exhibit dedicated to robotics, a Dome Theatre showing 3D movies, and plenty of child-friendly interactive experiences at the Science Workshop.

BEST CHOICE: Don’t miss the Miraikan’s symbol exhibit the Geo-Cosmos, huge three-dimensional globe-like display, made up of more than 10 million pixels.

LOCATION: MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless

THINGS TO SEE AND DO: There’s nothing else in the world quite like this - an entire museum designed by the art collective teamLab, a futuristic, interactive display of light and color. There are no rules here, and as the names suggests, no borders: exhibits that are spread across five worlds seamlessly blend into each other, and all encourage interaction, with each touch and movement from onlookers subtly changing and shaping the displays. You could lose days in here just staring, photographing and wandering.

BEST CHOICE: Set aside at least a whole morning or afternoon to explore the 60 exhibits in this vast space.

LOCATION: Sony ExploraScience

THINGS TO SEE AND DO: Sony has been synonymous with technology in Tokyo for decades, and the pop-up Sony ExploraScience museum showcases some of the company’s developments, while also providing an outlet for kids to play and learn. The interactive exhibits here are spread across a sprawling space use fun ways to explain the sound and light principles that Sony has researched. Some of the things they learn about here will appear in the gadgets they use in the future. There are also regular events and workshops held at the museum.

BEST CHOICE: One of the highlights of Sony ExploraScience is OnBa, a series of 20 speakers that breaks the structure of sound into individual components, before bringing them back together.

Discover more about where old meets new at experiencetokyo.nationalgeographic.com

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