The Ultimate Guide to Kusama Museums and Exhibitions in Japan
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s signature dots, pumpkins, and infinity mirror installations have become incredibly popular exhibitions when they pop up in the US. But if you’re headed to Japan, there’s an even wider variety of Kusama works to be seen for cheaper ticket prices.
From the awesome Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo, to the large number of open-air sculpture installations, here’s where to find Kusama’s artworks and exhibitions in Japan:
1The Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo
The newly opened Yayoi Kusama Museum is the world’s only permanent museum dedicated to her art. Located on the quieter outskirts of Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, the 3 story museum showcases a variety of Kusama’s artwork, and is unique in showing the progression of her work. We visited earlier this year, and can wholeheartedly recommend it.
Photos are only allowed in certain areas of the museum, so we can’t show you everything, but the displays are striking and well worth the visit. Be sure to grab a selfie next to the insanely photogenic dotted pumpkin on the roof!
Tickets are just 1,000 yen for adults–around $9 USD– a steal compared to exhibition prices in the US. Tickets must be purchased online in advance for a specific entry time. Tickets for the following month go on sale at the beginning of each month. However, they don’t sell out as quickly as they would in the US, so even if you’re only planning a couple weeks ahead, you still have a good chance of snagging tickets.
2Matsumoto City Art Museum
Matsumoto is Kusama’s hometown, though her relationship with the city has been fraught. As chronicled in the fascinating documentary “Kusama Infinity,” her risque performance art in New York City involving nudity caused a scandal in her hometown.
Fortunately, Matsumoto has embraced Kusama’s creative genius, and the Matsumoto City Art Museum now hosts a permanent exhibition, “Kusama Yayoi: The Place for My Soul.” In addition to a selection of Kusama’s paintings and a small infinity mirror exhibit, you’ll find fanciful polka dotted flower sculptures outside the museum, and even the coke machines have been given the Kusama treatment!
Admission to the Matsumoto City Art Museum is cheap, at less than $4 USD for adults! While Matsumoto is doable as a day trip from Tokyo, the city is charming and there’s plenty to see and do, making it a perfect weekend getaway.
3Kirishima Open Air Museum, Yusui, Kagoshima Prefecture
The Kirishima Open Air Museum in Southern Japan does have a more typical Kusama floral sculpture, titled “Flowers of Shangri-La,” but they also boast this polka dotted high heel, a less common subject matter for her.
The museum’s other modern art exhibitions are just as impressive, and tickets under $10USD. You’ll need to take a bus or taxi for the approx 15 minute drive from the nearest station, but the setting in the foothills of Mount Kirishima can’t be beat.
4Towada Art Center, Towada, Aomori
The Towada Art Center in Northern Japan features 8 of Yayoi Kusama’s sculptures, arranged in an outdoor exhibit titled “Love Forever, Singing in Towada.”
The contemporary museum has a large number of other fun and colorful pieces that will please Kusama fans. Wikipedia claims that the museum is also home to the world’s largest collection of anime body pillows, but it’s not clear if this is a permanent exhibition. Either way, admission to the permanent exhibition is just $5 USD, and this quirky museum is an excellent excuse to get off the beaten tourist path in Japan.
5Naoshima Island, Kagawa
If you’ve browsed Instagram at any point in the last couple years, you’ve probably seen a photo of one of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic pumpkins on picturesque Naoshima Island.
The area is a mecca for art lovers, with a huge number of museums, galleries, and outdoor installations spotting the island. And of course, two of Kusama’s pumpkins in a highly photogenic setting. Naoshima and neighboring Teshima and Inujima Islands are often referred to as “art islands” due to their concentration of museums, and indeed have been developed with art tourism in mind.
Set in Japan’s inland sea halfway between Osaka and Hiroshima, the islands aren’t far off the beaten path, and are easily accessible. It’s about 3.5 hours from Tokyo by Shinkansen, and multiple island ferry routes are available. With museum admissions ranging from around $10-20 USD, this is likely to be a more expensive weekend than some of the other museums on this list, but one bursting with visual inspiration.
6Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, Tokamachi, Niigata
Niigata’s Echigo-Tsumari Art Field is a sort of extended open air art museum, home to over 100 modern art installations. It features Yayoi Kusama’s “Tsumari in Bloom” sculpture, of which Kusama has said “Tsumari in Bloom is my favorite among all of the open-air sculptures that I have created for several places in Japan and other parts of the world.”
Niigata is doable as a day trip from Tokyo, though there’s enough to do and see to make a weekend of it. Many artworks are accessible by foot or bicycle from the station, but depending on which artworks you plan to see, you may need to rent a car or hire a taxi.
7Tocho Building South Tower Observation Deck, Shinjuku, Tokyo
The South Tower observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has a new attraction: a vintage piano painted by Yayoi Kusama. Unveiled in April, 2019 with the re-opening of the observation deck, the piano is more than just an art piece. Visitors are free to try their hand at playing the piano! Admission to the deck is free, though hours are limited, and you should expect a line at the elevators. Be sure to check current hours at the Tokyo government website linked above to plan your visit.