Why don’t you visit a cafe after going to a museum?
Sumida Ward: Sumida Hokusai Art Museum
>Sumida Hokusai Art Museum × ORI TOKYO
Bunkyo Ward: Takehisa Yumeji Museum
>Takehisa Yumeji Museum × Yumeji Cafe Minatoya
Minato Ward: Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum
>Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum × a Piece of Cake

You can find many art museums in Tokyo, and even though many of them hold special exhibitions featuring international artwork, there aren’t many museums that focus on the work of Japanese artists. All of the three art museums that we will introduce in this article are museums that exhibit the work of Japanese artists. We will also introduce cafes that are located inside, or near to the museums. After you have enjoyed the artwork, why not relax and talk about the experience while enjoying a nice cup of coffee?

Why not visit a cafe after going to a museum?

Spend some time talking about the artwork at a nearby cafe.

After you enjoy beautiful artwork at an art museum, why not go to a nearby cafe to talk about the experience? You can do that at these three art museums and the nearby cafes.
In this article, we will introduce art museums that exhibit the artwork of famous Japanese artists, and cafes that are located inside, or near to the museums, and their specialties. Why not talk about the artwork while you enjoy the cafe’s special menu?

Sumida Hokusai Museum - a museum dedicated to the famous Japanese painter

AURORA, a permanent exhibition room at Sumida Hokusai Museum. ©️Owashi Yosuke

In 1998, the only Japanese person featured in American "Life" magazine’s ”The 100 Most Important People of the Past 1,000 Years” was ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. Katsushika Hokusai is famous in both Japan and overseas, and he is also known for influencing European art. Sumida Hokusai Museum located in Sumida ward, Tokyo, exhibits Hokusai’s artwork.
The Sumida Ward that the museum is located in, was a very important location in Hokusai’s life. Hokusai moved over 90 times in his life, but he spent most of his life in Sumida ward.

Experience the world of Hokusai through the latest technology

Sumida Hokusai Museum holds special exhibitions regularly, but they also have a permanent exhibition room called ”AURORA”, which includes  7 areas.
Hokusai created a lot of artwork during his 70 years as an artist, and he is also known for having various art styles. Hokusai didn’t only do ukiyo-e styles, like Tosa, Kano, Rinpa and western. He also tried a lot of different art forms. The museum displays many various genres of his work, including ”36 Views of Mount Fuji”, and ”Hokusai Manga”, which is said to have influenced the way French artist Edgar Degas paints people.

The AURORA exhibition room exhibits Hokusai’s life in 7 different areas. One area introduces Hokusai’s life in the Sumida ward, and the other 6 areas introduce Hokusai’s artwork separated into 6 areas for his main pen names.

You can learn about the locations Hokusai spent his life using a map.  ©️Owashi Yosuke

The exhibition features a lot of the latest technology. You can look at nishiki-e on a high-quality monitor, and look at ”Hokusai Manga” and other art books on a touch panel. You will be able to see a lot more interesting details in his work than you would by just looking at a painting. They have also re-created Hokusai’s atelier. You will be able to see a wide variety of exhibitions about his artwork.

You can zoom into his artwork on the touch panel to look at the details. ©️Owashi Yosuke

A re-creation of Hokusai’s atelier. ©️Owashi Yosuke

The stylish building was made to blend in with the surroundings

Many people first notice the Sumida Hokusai Museum’s stylish building. This building was designed by a world-famous architect Kazuyo Sejima. The walls are made of mirrored aluminum panels, which reflect the residential buildings surrounding the museum, which makes it blend into the area.

The unique building was made to blend in with its surroundings. ©Owashi Yosuke

The building was built with no windows to protect the delicate ukiyo-e paintings. The building also doesn’t have a specific entrance. A slit in the building makes it accessible from all directions since it was made to not only function as an art museum but to also create a sense of unity with the park and residential area around it.

ORI TOKYO, a traditional Japanese cafe with knitted Hokusai artwork

The wooden outer wall creates a traditional Japanese feeling.

ORI TOKYO is located at a 15-second walk from Sumida Hokusai Museum, on the Hokusai Street that goes towards Ryokoku Station. The cafe was opened in April 2018, and while it serves as a cafe, they also exhibit and sell knitted recreations of Hokusai’s ”36 Views of Mount Fuji”.

”36 Views of Mount Fuji” matches well with the modern Japanese look of the cafe.

The cafe has a modern Japanese interior made of Douglas fir. The interior features the knit pattern everywhere, for example, on the coffered ceiling that features the store logo, and the checkered pattern at the entrance.

Most of the knitted work sold at ORI TOKYO is made with the jacquard weave, a technique created by knitting various colored threads in a complex pattern. They also exhibit knitted work that hasn’t been framed, so you can take a close look at the complex knit. You can buy knitted work at the cafe. The big ones cost 39,800 yen, and the smaller ones 29,800 yen. Both prices include frames, so you can put them up on your walls right after you buy them.

You can see and touch the high-quality knitted artwork.

They also have many special items on their menu. For example, their coffee is made with a traditional siphon coffee maker, and they use coffee beans from Karuizawa, Nagano, because they aren’t bitter and go well with the siphon coffee maker. They also cool their iced coffee immediately to prevent it from turning bitter.

The coasters also function as shop cards.

Ice Cream Monaka is made by caramelizing monaka from Asakusa, Tokyo, and adding homemade ice cream and Hokkaido red bean paste on top of it.
The creamy vanilla-scented ice cream matches the chunky red bean paste perfectly. The tasty almonds and crunchy monaka give a nice texture to the sweet. The sencha is delivered from Kyoto, which is perfect for enjoying this modern Japanese cafe.

Ice Cream Monaka (700 yen) and Sencha (680 yen)

ORI TOKYO also offers special menus that collaborate with Sumida Hokusai Museum’s special exhibitions. You can stop by after spending a day at the art museum, or you can go to enjoy the knitted ”36 Views of Mount Fuji”.

Experience Taisho Era Romance at Takehisa Yumeji Museum

Takehisa Yumeji Museum

Takehisa Yumeji Museum is located in the Bunkyo ward, Tokyo. The museum is dedicated to Takehisa Yumeji, a painter who is known for his Taisho Era Romance themed artwork. It opened in 1990, to display the Yumeji collection owned by Takumi Kano, the chairman of Yayoi Art Museum, which is located in the same building. Besides his artwork, the collection of 3,300 items also includes Yumeji’s belongings and letters.

Azaleas and maple leaves dye the museum in the season’s colors

Takehisa Yumeji Art Museum is located on the opposite side of Tokyo University Hongo Campus’ Yayoi Gate. The museum is located in the same Hongo area as Kikufuji Hotel, where Yumeji stayed.

You can see Takehisa Yumeji Art Museum in the back of the garden.

Takehisa Yumeji Art Museum is connected to Yayoi Art Museum with a passage. Behind the red-tiled Yayoi Art Museum and garden filled with azaleas and maple trees, is the Takeshita Yumeji Art Museum.

The museum approaches Takehisa Yumeji in various ways

”Suichikukyo” (1933) A painting of a local woman that Yumeji painted when staying in Berlin, Germany. (Picture provided by Takehisa Yumeji Art Museum)

You can see the Taisho era romance style in Takehisa Yumeji’s sentimental and delicate paintings of women. Yumeji’s unique style combines Japanese nostalgia with Western European modernism. He incorporated the trends of each era into his work while still living his life as he wanted, creating a wide variety of artwork.

A woman painted by Yumeji

You have to take a look at the fashion of the women in Yumeji’s paintings. Yumeji was also a talented designer, and he created many trends among female students through the traditional clothing and accessories he drew in his paintings.
Yumeji was popular mainly among women. He did various kinds of different artwork, like illustrations for magazines, songs, nursery rhymes, and advertisement designs. You can say that Takehisa Yumeji was the artist of the Taisho era. 

”The Ladies Graphic” magazine covers that Yumeji designed.

Takehisa Yumeji Art Museum exhibits Yumeji’s work in various ways. The museum exhibits Yumeji’s artwork throughout his life, and they have also published a book called ”The Lifestyle of Takehisa Yumeji - 100 Words of Life and Love (竹久夢二という生き方 人生と恋愛100の言葉)”, that includes words left behind by Takehisa Yumeji, who wanted to become a poet.

”Words of Life (人生のことば)” edited by curator Ishikawa (1,728 yen)

Female students looked up to Yumeji as a fashion icon, but you can also find tips for life and love through his diaries and essays. You should visit the special exhibition that is held 4 times a year, and feel the charm of Takehisa Yumeji by yourself.

Experience Yumeji’s design as latte art at ”Yumeji Cafe Minatoya”

Yumeji, who was a very talented artist, had a store called ”Minatoya Picture Book Store” in Nihonbashi at the beginning of the Taisho era. In the store, he sold letter papers, Japanese papers, towels, cloth wrappers, yukatas, and other general goods. The store was very popular among women.

The red-tiled exterior of ”Yumeji Cafe Minatoya”

”Minatoya”, the cafe built within Yayoi Art Museum and Takehisa Yumeji Art Museum, took its name from that store. The Yayoi Art Museum’s red-tiled outer wall gives a retro vibe to the cafe. The atmosphere inside the cafe is very calm, and you can enjoy the view of the art museum’s garden and Tokyo University building from a big window. You can come and relax in this cafe after enjoying the Taisho era romance.

You can enjoy all four seasons by looking at the garden.

You can purchase homemade cakes and curry at the cafe. They also have a popular cappuccino drink called ”Yume no Ato”. The drink comes with Yumeji-inspired latte art of a rose or a japonica. The latte art comes in various designs, so you can look forward to seeing which one you will get.

Cappucino ”Yume no Ato” (500 yen)

Once a month, the cafe holds an event called ”Roman Photo Booth”. During this event, you can get your picture taken in front of the garden and the cafe while wearing a kimono.
A professional make-up artist transforms you into a retro kimono look, and then a professional cameraman will take a picture of you that looks like one of Yumeji’s paintings of beautiful women. You will get to keep a beautiful Taisho era romance inspired picture of yourself. The price includes the costume, hair and make-up, and picture data for 5 pictures.
The next event is planned to be held in September 2019 (there is none for August). If you are interested, feel free to contact them.

In the cafe, you can see pictures taken during ”Roman Photo Booth”.

Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum features art full of life

Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum’s reception (permanent exhibition)

”Art is an explosion.” Every Japanese person has heard these Taro Okamoto’s words.
Taro Okamoto is an artist who created many vibrant artworks around Japan, including ”Tower of the Sun”, a building created as a symbol of Expo ’70. The building where Taro Okamoto created his artwork is located in Omotesando, Tokyo, and it has now been transformed into ”Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum”.

The concrete atelier that Taro Okamoto loved

In 1954, this building was built on the land where Taro Okamoto’s parents lived before the war as Taro’s atelier and home. The building was built out of concrete both inside and outside, which was rare back then. The building was designed by Taro’s friend, an architect called Junzo Sakakura, who was also a student of Le Corbusier. 
On top of the concrete building is a lense-shaped roof. The building itself is also very innovative.

The atelier has an open-ceiling space so he could look at big projects from above.

The atelier in the back of the house is an open-ceiling space. The northern wall is made of glass. This was a request Taro made to make sure that the lighting in the atelier was stable. You can’t go into the atelier, but you can take a look inside and see all the big canvases Taro worked on the way they were back then.

Taro’s brushes are also left as they were.

Taro’s artwork is displayed inside and outside the building

Space next to the passageway leading to the atelier was used as a reception space, where he could talk with his friends and guests. Now, this space displays Taro’s life-sized mannequin and other unique artwork.

Many of Taro’s famous works are also on display

On the table, you can see some of his artwork, like ”Mizusashi Danshaku” and ”Yume no Tori”. In front of the window, you can see pictures of Taro and his common-law wife Toshiko Okamoto.
You can also see Taro’s many creative artworks in the garden. Between the trees you can find statues, and ”Tower of the Sun” looks down on you from the 2nd-floor balcony. 

There is a small ”Tower of the Sun” on the 2nd-floor balcony.

The doorknobs are also Taro’s work, and you can find his humorous artwork all around the building.

Cute leg-shaped doorknob.

Special exhibitions are held on the 2nd floor

Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum has preserved his atelier and living space as they are, but they also hold special exhibitions regularly. The theme changes every 3 months, and they display 30 to 40 artworks at a time. You can take a close look at his powerful creations.

Relax with handmade cakes and coffee at ”a Piece of Cake”

a Piece of Cake’s colorful antique interior.

a Piece of Cake is a cafe built inside Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum. You can enjoy coffee with handmade cakes. The cafe was opened in 1998, the same year the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum was opened. The place where the cafe is used to be Taro Okamoto’s sculpture room, which is the place the ”Tower of the Sun” was created.
The cafe interior is very vibrant. The walls are painted yellow with small tiles put on them, and the lampshades are made of stained glass. The cafe also has terrace seats, so you can enjoy your coffee while looking at the museum garden.

The terrace seats face the garden.

The cafe offers a wide variety of cakes, like homemade pancakes, apple pies, and cheesecakes. You can order these as a set with a cup of coffee. The homemade pancakes are created by APOC, a pancake house located in Minami-Aoyama, near the museum. The pancakes are made with organic ingredients.

Cinnamon banana cheesecake (1,200 yen / hot coffee included) 

Cinnamon banana cheesecake combines the gentle sweetness of bananas with cinnamon’s spice, which compliments the ever-so-slightly bittersweet cheesecake. A piece of this cake with a flavorful hot coffee is a perfect way to treat yourself.

Handmade cookies are perfect for a souvenir.

The cafe also sells handmade cookies and ”TARO Face Cookies”, which feature his artwork. These are perfect for souvenirs or gifts. The handmade TARO Face Cookies are flavored with a special spice blend, which makes them very flavorful.

TARO Face Cookies (1,000 yen / 3 cookies)

Stop by this cute cafe after viewing Taro Okamoto’s vibrant artwork to relax with a cup of coffee and a delicious cake.

Spend a day full of art in museums and cafes

In this article, we introduced the art museums of Edo era artist Katsushika Hokusai, Taisho era romance artist Takehisa Yumeji, and 20th-century legend Taro Okamoto, and cafes inside or near the museums. If you want, you can only visit the cafes, but you will be able to get a more artful experience if you stop by the museums beforehand.