If you’re looking for something really different consider visiting some of Japan’s unique museums. Here is a list of 12 museums, from the North to South:
This museum is an “open air” museum and features the buildings of the former Abashiri Prison built in 1890 to house dangerous criminals. The prison was made famous through yakuza movies.
Built in 1995, the Trick Art Museum features art and exhibits using distortion and imagery. Admission 1,300 yen.
Opened in the year 2000, the John Lennon Museum consists of 9 zones and 130 pieces of memorabilia donated by his wife Yoko Ono. See his guitars, costumes lyrics film and music. Includes the Museum Lounge where visitors can “bask in the afterglow of John’s spirit.” Admission 1,500 yen.
Who wouldn’t want to visit this exciting museum about man’s worst friend, the parasite. Over 300 varieties of parasites to pore over. Don’t miss the 30 foot tapeworm exhibit! Admission: free.
This museum covers the history of tobacco and salt production, and includes sections on Japanese and foreign salt. In the early days, Japan specialized in sea salt, as there was no other natural sources. Salt has also played an important part in Shinto ceremonies for purification. You are sure to gain even more appreciation for that next Salty Dog or Margarita. Admission: 100 yen.
Learn all about the history of this Chinese noodle as well as the obsessive culture that surrounds it in this 3-floor museum. In the section called “Ramen Town,” a historical theme park, you can taste the 4 main types of Japanese ramen, from Sapporo, Hakata, Kumamoto and Kitakata. There are ramen shops inside the museum where you can perfect your slurp until 11pm. Admission 300 yen. Ramen extra.
This museum has a collection of 12,926 dolls from 140 countries, 7,577 of those dolls from Japan. Dolls have traditionally played an important role in society as good luck charms and to ward off evil. The museum covers doll-making techniques and explores how dolls relate to our every day lives. Admission 500 yen.
From Leonardo DaVinci’s self-propelled cart to the Toyota Prius, this museum has a variety of automobiles on display. Check out the list of the autos in the collection at the URL below. Admission 1,000 yen.
This museum houses a collection of costumes worn throughout Japanese history in the Nara, and Heian to Meiji Periods. Costumes are displayed on life-size dolls. There is also a recreation of the Haru no Goten palace from the Tale of Genji. Admission: 400 yen.
10. Japan Footwear Museum, Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture
This museum is situated in Matsunaga, a town that has been making Japanese wooden geta sandals for over a century. The exhibits include geta sandals, straw sandals, various shoes and even an astronauts lunar boots! Learn why the sound of wooden clogs over pavement is sexy. Admission 1,000 yen for the well-heeled.
Also called “Shikoku Village” this is an “open air” museum featuring traditional Japanese buildings from the Edo and Meiji periods found on the island of Shikoku, long isolated from mainland Japan. Walk among farmhouses, workshops and storehouses that have been preserved. Admission: 800 yen.
12. Beppu Hihokan Sex Museum, Oita-ken (Kyushu)
Although sex museums can be found throughout Japan, this is a particularly good one in Beppu, a region better known for its natural hot springs. The museum features erotic art, drawings and wax dolls. They also show a movie called “48 Love Positions.” Forty eight? Find out for yourself. Admission: 1,000 yen. No website available.
Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at www.amychavez.com