Japan Nara Nara Park

Nara National Museum

A Meiji-era architectural marvel showcasing Japan’s Buddhist art

Photo of Nara National Museum, Japan (Nara National Museum in Nara, Nara prefecture, Japan. 奈良国立博物館。 所在地は奈良県奈良市。 Camera: Sony ILCE-6000Lens: Sony SEL1670Z (Carl Zeiss) by 663highland)

The Nara National Museum, founded in 1889 and opened to the public in 1895, is a pivotal institution preserving Japan’s Buddhist art. It features an array of Buddhist sculptures, paintings, and artifacts that mirror the nation’s profound religious heritage. The museum complex is a fusion of Japanese and Western architectural styles, offering visitors a deep insight into the art and spirituality of Nara, the country’s former capital.

About Nara National Museum

Situated in Nara Park, the Nara National Museum (Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan) stands as a symbol of cultural heritage with a focus on Buddhist art. Founded in the wake of Japan’s cultural awakening and international exhibitions in the late 19th century, the museum has been a safeguard for Japan’s cultural assets since its public opening in 1895.

The architectural splendor of the museum is attributed to the imperial architect Katayama Tōkuma, best known for his work on the Akasaka Palace. The Main Building, completed in 1894 and an Important Cultural Property, exemplifies Meiji-period Western-style architecture. The museum has grown to include the Main Building Annex, the East and West Wings, and an underground corridor, facilitating a comprehensive cultural journey.

The museum boasts 13 National Treasures and 114 Important Cultural Properties, alongside additional treasures on deposit. The Silk-painted Eleven-faced Kannon and the Hell Scroll (Jigoku zoshi) are among the artifacts of significant historical and artistic worth. The annual autumn Shōsō-in Exhibition, which presents items from the Shōsō-in repository of the Nara period, is particularly significant.

The museum provides an immersive experience of Nara’s history as Japan’s capital, particularly through the “Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall,” reopened in 2010 in the Main Building. The East and West Wings complement this experience with temporary exhibitions that span the broad spectrum of Japanese art and culture.

Established in 1980, the museum’s Center for Buddhist Art Research houses a wealth of Buddhist art materials, accessible to scholars and the public on a limited basis.

The museum has made a lasting impression on visitors, including Albert Einstein, who visited in December 1922. Its collections and the tranquil Hassoan tea ceremony house within the museum’s garden offer a peaceful sanctuary.

As a key cultural site, the Nara National Museum draws both domestic and international attention. English descriptions aid comprehension for global audiences, enabling a full appreciation of Japan’s religious and artistic legacy.

Visitors are encouraged to dedicate time to both the permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as to the museum’s architectural elegance. The Nara National Museum is not merely an art depository; it is a portal to the spiritual and artistic essence of Japan. The illustrious Todaiji Temple and its revered “Great Buddha” enhance the museum’s narrative, providing a tangible link to the Buddhist art showcased.

Getting There the easiest way to reach Nara National Museum

Around Nara National Museum

Nara National Museum

History Museum in Nara

open 9:30am - 4:30pm (varies)
closed Monday, unless a holiday (and other days)


奈良国立博物館, 奈良

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Updated 14 Mar 2024 • Report an error

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