Luckily for visitors, Japan does a good job of showcasing their culture in a myriad of museums. There are great museums dedicated to food (we’re talking cup noodles and mayonnaise), nature, as well as countless museums for art and culture. We all know famous museums like the Ghibli Museum or the Cupnoodles Museum.
However, Japan’s also home to plenty of museums that sound downright weird (or at least, unusual). If you can think of it, they will create it. Here are some of the weirder museums you can find in Japan:
Unko Museum (Poop museum), Odaiba | Tokyo
Where kawaii meets poop: “Unko” means poop, so expect to find lots of poop-related displays (except the real kind) along the lines of “Max Unko Kawaii”: lots of bright, neon-coloured poop imagery and scatological humour. Play crappy games at the “Crappy Arcade” or the virtual game area, snap a crappy selfie at their photo booth, and step into “UNBERTO’s room” for a spot of poop luck. Hit up the museum shop for… shitty souvenirs.
Website | Entry: ¥1,600
Otsuka Museum of Arts, Naruto | Tokushima Prefecture
The museum of fakes: Everything is here: “Mona Lisa”, “The Last Supper”, Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, and even the Sistine Chapel! But here’s the thing: they’re all fake! Because of that, you can touch them or take flash photos – and they last 2,000 years. Reportedly Japan’s most expensive gallery, it’s also the biggest (at 4km long).
Website | Entry: ¥3,300
Poison Gas Museum, Okunoshima Island | Hiroshima Prefecture
Horror on rabbit island: Okunoshima, aka Rabbit Island, is home to a huge population of free-roaming rabbits, but this tiny museum is far from cute. It’s dedicated to an unsavoury part of Japanese history when the island was a major poison gas production facility, most notably Mustard Gas. Following Japan’s defeat, the factories were destroyed, save for a few ruins.
Website (Japanese only) | Entry: ¥100
Cat Museum, Ito City | Shizuoka Prefecture
For fans of felines past and present: You can check out all manner of kitties, alive or dead. Luckily for cat lovers, there’s a petting gallery where you can play with over 50 friendly domestic cats. Once you get enough of them, you can check out their more bizarre displays of cat cousins: stuffed tigers and lions, and skeletal replicas of cave lions and saber-toothed tiger skulls.
Website (Japanese only) | Entry: ¥1,300
Meguro Parasitological Museum, Meguro | Tokyo
Meet the horrors from within: The critters in this museum literally get under your skin. The glass jars house a wonderful array of parasites, and the second floor focuses on those that live in humans! Photos of the effects of these parasites on the body add to the gruesomeness. With over 45,000 specimens on display, the most famous is the world’s longest tapeworm, at 8.8metres.
Website | Entry: Free (donations accepted)
MayoTerrace (Kewpie Mayo Museum), Chofu | Tokyo
An ode to mayonnaise: The Japanese really love their Kewpie mayonnaise – the one that comes in a squeezie bottle with a baby icon on it. Entering the “Salad Hall” main area, you get to make your own mayo dips and eat them with a salad. If you’re a “mayola” (mayo lover), check out the gift shop that’s stocked with mayo paraphernalia.
Website (Japanese only) | Entry: Free
Ice Aquarium (Kori no Suizokukan), Kesennuma | Miyagi Prefecture
Finding Nemo in the Ice Age: The Ice Aquarium sounds like a fancy name for the frozen seafood section of a supermarket, and it sort of is. You have to don a special winter coat before entering – the temperature inside is a chilly -20ºC! – to see the collection of 450 locally-caught fish which are flash-frozen and suspended in blocks of clear ice. Like a scene out of Alien.
Website | Entry: ¥500
Art Aquarium, Nihonbashi | Tokyo
See fish swimming in fancy fishbowls: This Instagrammable museum is every goldfish owner’s dream – it’s a macabre display of fish trapped in beautiful aquariums of various shapes and sizes. The dim, colour-lit aquariums create a performance art that feels like something out of Blade Runner. No word on how they handle fish poop, though.
Website | Entry: ¥2,300
Tobacco and Salt Museum, Sumida | Tokyo
A museum of the mundane: The Japanese have a knack for making museums of everything – even something as mundane as tobacco and salt. This museum outlines the importance of these commodities in Japan’s history (they were once incredibly hard to come by), and has displays of vintage cigarette packets and smoking paraphernalia.
Website | Entry: ¥100
Museum of Life and Sex, Ikaho | Gunma Prefecture
Museum of sex ed: With explicit videos on childbirth, sex (and its diseases), and guide for condoms and tampons, this museum aims to teach people about life, death, and sex – graphically. Sit in gynecology chairs, don pregnancy suits or lie inside a coffin. The second floor is all about titillation, including S&M bondage displays and penis sculptures.
Website | Entry: ¥1,000
Nijisseiki Pear Museum, Kurayoshi | Tottori Prefecture
An ode to the humble pear: The Japanese have a huge love of fruits, and in Tottori, they’re so proud of their Asian pears (or Nijisseiki, meaning ‘new century’) that they’ve erected a museum to it, dedicated to all things pear-shaped. Not surprisingly, there’s also a pear mascot. What can you do there? According to a Google review: “They have a tasting room, kids room and some real trees.”
Website | Entry: ¥300
Atami Hihokan (Sex museum), Atami | Shizuoka Prefecture
A NSFW horny Haw Par Villa: One of the last remaining hihokan in Japan, it has an 80s retro vibe with a collection of mannequins in compromising positions – crank a handle or push a button and prepare for a saucy surprise! There are also salacious Shunga prints, antique dildos, and tacky holograms. Everything is tacky and dated, but that’s the fun of it.
Entry: ¥1,700 (no under 18s, no photography inside)
Wonder Museum (Fushigi Hakubutsukan), Fukuoka | Fukuoka Prefecture
Nightmare fuel: Deep in the mountains of Fukuoka, this mysterious museum only opens on the last Sunday of every month. It’s more of an art gallery dedicated to the weird imagination of artist Takamasa Sumi – from a giant tardigrade sculpture to eerie photos of his female staff dressed in maid outfits (who also happen to staff the museum). For those who can’t make it out into the woods, the Wonder Museum Sanatorium – its annex in the city – is themed after Sumi’s weird take on the world of medical labs.
Website (Japanese only)
Love Doll Museum, Saitama | Saitama Prefecture
A celebration of silicone sex dolls: Located in an undisclosed location in Saitama, it’s dedicated to love dolls – you know, those lifelike silicone figures often associated with lonely men and sex. Owner Yoshitake Hyodo only displays his collection of Japanese love dolls a few times a year, because the museum is actually his residence (so reservations must be made).
Website (Japanese only) | Entry fee: ¥1,000 (no under 18s)
These museums just scratch the surface – there are plenty more that are weird, wacky, and wonderful museums all over Japan. Which ones will you most likely want to visit?