New Year museum calendar

New Year’s gifts from Tokyo’s art galleries and museums

New Year museum calendar

Tokyo’s average first sunrise of the year happens around 6:50am, and even in the heart of the city there is a place where the full pleasure of goraiko (a sunrise viewed from the top of a high mountain) can be appreciated: Tokyo Tower. Viewing the sunrise from a height of 250 metres will usher in the New Year with unexpectedly sublime colour.

At the Tokyo National Museum the shishimai (lion dance) and kagura (sacred dance) performances, which are becoming an annual New Year event, are very popular. Not only locals, but also many overseas tourists turn out to see the shishimai too; being ‘bitten’ by one of the dancing lions is said to give you perfect health for the year, so it’s tempting to pluck up some courage and put yourself in the lion’s way to get your share of the blessings.

Though many galleries close over the year-end and New Year period, there are also many places that are still open to grant the wishes of those who want to spend the closing days of the year, and the first day of the next taking in art. Each of the museums offers it’s own programme, with special services and events being held over the New Year period, so consider spending an enjoyable day out during a New Year spent in Tokyo with some of these possibilities.

Tokyo Tower

It’s possible to view the sunrise over Tokyo Bay on New Year’s Day from Tokyo Tower. The Special Observatory (250 metres aboveground) and the Main Observatory (150 metres aboveground) will open from 6am on January 1, 2010. From 4am numbered tickets for the Special Observatory will be given out, and only the first 80 visitors will be admitted. The Main Observatory has no limits on numbers, but it’s best to get there early. After watching the first sunrise, we recommend hatsumode (the year’s first visit to a temple or shrine) at Tower Jingu, the nearby Tokyo Tower shrine. The first 2010 visitors will receive a commemorative medal engraved with ‘2010.1.1.’ (venue info)

Mori Art Museum

Mori Art Museum will be open throughout the year-end and New Year period. The current exhibition is “Medicine and Art: Imagining a Future for Life and Love.” (read our review here) Also open is the “MAM PROJECT 010: Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen,” a project where the Helsinki based artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen have visited places all over the world to collect the complaints of the local people to put together in a choir. The humorous and melancholy footage of the choirs not only provides a chance to let out a year’s worth of dissatisfaction, but is also offers an opportunity for the year’s first laughter (read an interview with the artists here). (venue info

Mitsuo Aida Museum

Open everyday in the year-end and New Year period until Monday January 11, a national holiday. On January 1, from 11am and from 3pm, the museum director will give a New Year talk about the museum’s works in Japanese. As a New Year otoshidama (New Year gift), all visitors on the first three days of the year will receive an original ema (votice picture) postcard. The museum shop will also be selling fukubukuro (lucky grab- bags sold at New Year). (venue info)

Meguro Gajoen

From January 1 to 3 Meguro Gajoen is holding the New Year event “Miyabi Yuen 2010.” 2010 will mark the event’s fourth year, and it attracted around 9000 visitors in 2009. During the event, performances of traditional elements of ancient Japanese celebrations and festivals like shishimai lion dances and ohayashi music allow visitors to get a true taste of Japanese New Year. From 3:30pm on January 3, mochi rice-cake making and a tug-of-war contest will be led by sumo wrestler Takamisakari-zeki.

Address: 1-8-1 Shimo Meguro, Meguro, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)3491 4111

Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

The museum will be closed from December 28 to January 1. Opening in the New Year on January 2, a celebration of traditional Japanese court music, gagaku, will be held. Also, happily, as it is the first day of opening in the New Year, admission to the exhibits will be free, and 20% off on January 3. (venue info)

Edo-Tokyo Museum

The museum is closed from December 28 to January 1, and opening in the New Year from 11am on January 2. From January 4 regular hours will be resumed, with the museum opening from 9:30am. From January 2 to 4, the first 200 visitors to the permanent exhibition will receive a special Edo-Tokyo Museum postcard with an auspicious picture of Mt. Fuji on it. Also on January 3, there will be special talks from Kinba Sanyutei, Kintoki Sanyutei and museum director and Makoto Takeuchi (in Japanese). (venue info)

Tokyo National Museum

The museum will be closed from December 27 to January 1, reopening on January 2 in the New Year. Celebrating the year of the Tiger, a special New Year exhibition, ‘Year of the Tiger: Looking at Tigers in Japanese, Chinese and Korean Art’ will be opened. The exhibition will feature works which explore the themes of courage, strength and virtue, and deep affection, through the motif of the tiger. Also on the agenda are shishimai and kagura performances, which are becoming an annual event. The exhibition ‘The Power of Dogu’ which was just at the British Museum from September 10 to November 22 2009 will also be on display. Not to be missed, the exhibition features clay dogu figures ranging from the early Jomon to the mid-Yayoi periods, along with other related materials, including three designated National Treasures. (venue info)

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is closed from December 28 to January 1, and opening for 2010 from January 2. The latest developments in science and technology can be enjoyed in the permanent exhibition. In addition, a special exhibition ‘It’s a Tasty World: Food Science, Now!’ explores the various problems surrounding modern day food from the perspective of advanced science and technology. (venue info)

Tokyo Sea Life Park

The park will be closed from December 29 to January 1, and opens for the New Year on January 2 with an assortment of special services on offer for January 2 and 3. The first 1000 visitors to the park will receive a free ‘kairo’ warmer. The first 1500 shoppers to make a purchase at the park gift shop will get a special Chinese zodiac pin badge. At the Sky Plaza, on the 3rd floor of the main building, you can meet the park mascots Pen-chan the Humboldt Penguin and Gan-chan the Western Rockhopper Penguin, who will help you welcome in the New Year and pose for commemorative photographs. You can even have your year’s fortune told by drawing your lot from the Sea Park Omikuji. Kite flying is also available in the Picnic Plaza from January 2 to 4. (venue info)

Ghibli Museum, Mitaka

The museum is closed from December 28 to January 2. When it reopens, in addition to the permanent exhibition, ‘Where a Film is Born,’ its will also possible to enjoy the special exhibition ‘Akita, Asobi no Fukei.’ This exhibition contains work by Kazuo Oka, art director for films such as ‘My Neighbour Totoro,’ ‘Only Yesterday,’ ‘Pom Poko’ and ‘Princess Mononoke.’ The exhibition focuses on depictions of nostalgic landscapes, rich in natural scenery, such as mountains, rivers, the sky and clouds, trees and plants and rural scenes. (venue info)

By Akiko Toya
By Virginia Okno
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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