Welcome to Part 3 of our look at some of the best museums in Nara Prefecture. Parts 1 & 2 focused on Nara City while the following article explores some of the fabulous museums that other parts of the prefecture offer. Just like in Parts 1 & 2, each museum is paired with a delicious place to eat nearby.
Genryu kan (森と水の源流館)
The Forest and Riverhead Museum is a place where people of all ages can experience and learn about the "beauty, enjoyment, and wonder" of nature, centered around the forests that nurture the "water" that is essential to our lives.
At the center of the facility is the Riverhead Forest Theatre, an impressive space that has a huge diorama of the forest at the back and high-placed panoramic movie screens at the front. Here they show a 15 minute long video covering a day in the life of the forest and an overview of the seasons. It's an immersive experience full of amazing footage and mesmeric 3D soundscapes.
There is also a large aquarium where you can meet the creatures that live in and around the rivers and a hands-on program designed for young learners, where you can play and learn about the value of nature and its protection.
Their open library is full of books and research materials about forests and water and next to the theatre there is a replica of a house from the Edo period complete with an open hearth and genuine tools from the era. You can learn about traditional children's games, customs and listen to folk stories read by local people.
The Genryukan Forest and Riverhead Museum is not just a stylish, modern-day center for learning and environmental protection, it's a true celebration of the local people and their culture.
Address: 590-2 Sako, Kawakami, Yoshino District, Nara
Hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Closed: Wednesday, January 1st
Admission: ¥400 for adults, ¥200 for elementary & junior high school students
Place to Eat Nearby
Restaurant Yamabuki in Hotel Suginoyu
Yamabuki is a restaurant on the first floor of Hotel Suginoyu, which is adjacent to the village office and roadside rest area in Kawakami Village. You can relax and enjoy your meal in a bright, pure Japanese-style restaurant that makes use of plenty of gorgeous Yoshino cedar. The menu includes local set meals of amago salmon tempura, karaage fried chicken, sashimi, chagayu porridge ad even wild boar.
The restaurant is rather spacious, able to accommodate multiple parties at once and the large floor-length windows across the far side of the restaurant provide amazing views of the valley.
Address: 695 Sako, Kawakami, Yoshino District, Nara
Hours: 11:00am – 2:30pm (L.O. 2:00pm) every day
Nara Prefecture Historic and Artistic Culture Complex
The overarching aim of the Culture Complex is to inspire "5-sense" curiosity in its visitors in a relaxed environment of fun and discovery.
At the Nara Prefecture Historical and Artistic Culture Complex, you get to experience all the things that the people of Nara take pride in, such as history, religion, art, food and agriculture.
The complex is made up of 5 wings:
Restorations and Exhibition Wing
Unique to anywhere in Japan, visitors get to see up close just how experts go about cleaning, protecting and restoring Buddhist sculptures, paintings, writings, historical buildings, archaeological discoveries. These year round viewings come with an expert guide to walk you through the complex and answer your questions.
Culture Exchange Wing
Here you'll find a spacious restaurant serving dishes made with local ingredients that also offers panoramic views of the Yamato Plains from their outdoor terrace. Next to that is shop with selling Naraʼs agricultural products and traditional crafts. There are also cooking classes using the seasonal ingredients of Nara and traditional craftwork experiences.
Artistic Culture Wing
Public viewing and exhibition of works by Japanese and international artists.
Here they hold regular events such as traditional arts and cultural seminars and casual art sessions for everyone, including infants.
This facility provides tourist information relating to the historical and cultural for the entirety of Nara Prefecture, as well as the surrounding areas.
Outdoor Experience Zone
The observatory deck and trails will offer beautiful views of the Yamato Plains and mountains
The adjacent hotel, Fairfield by Marriott Nara Tenri Yamanobenomichi, is a stylish and comfortable base for exploring Nara’s culture and walking the ancient Yamanobe-no-Michi trail.
Address: 437-3 Somanouchicho, Tenri, Nara 632-0032
Hours: 9:00 - 17:00
Place to Eat Nearby Marukatsu
Located on site at the culture complex is Marukatsu, a Nara based katsu restaurant (breaded cutlets) that offers mouthwatering dishes that would satisfy the hungriest of souls.
Their menu is extensive and includes a variety of Nara sourced ingredients and a tasty selection of desserts.
Perhaps most impressively, Marukatsu offers free food to those that may not be in a position to pay for it. Their policy is to not ask any personal questions - even names, they have never refused any request and to date have helped hundreds of families in times of need. Marukatsu - we salute you!
Address: 437-3 Somanouchicho, Tenri, Nara 632-0032
Hours: 9:00- 20:30
※Morning Menu 9:00 - 11:00
Tenri University Sankokan Museum
The Tenri University Sankokan Museum was established as “The Overseas Reference Materials Room” in 1930 to “broaden knowledge of the lifestyles and histories of people from various regions of the world” by collecting, preserving and displaying ethnographical, archeological and transportation related artifacts.
The museum’s permanent exhibition is spread across 3 floors and 3,000 items from the museum’s extensive collection (approx. 300,000 artifacts) are on display. Seasonal and special exhibitions are held 3-4 times a year, including workshop, museum concerts and lectures.
*Photography and filming at Tenri Sankokan is usually prohibited. We would like to thank the museum for allowing us to film inside in order to compile this blog and accompanying video.
Address: 250 Morimedo, Tenri, Nara 632-8540
Phone: 0743-63-8414 Fax: 0743-63-7721
Hours: 9:30-16:30 (Last Entry at 16:00)
The museum stays open every day during the following periods: April 17-19, July 26-August 2, January 5-7 and the 25th-26th of every month.] April 28 (Anniversary of the Museum’s Founding) August 13-17 (Summer Closure) December 27-January 4 (Year-End & New Year’s Season)
Closed: Tuesday (When a national holiday falls on Tuesday, the museum closes on Wednesday instead.)
Admission: ¥500 for adults (high school students and up), and ¥300 for elementary and junior.
Sharp Technology Innovation Museum
The history of Sharp corporation is one of innovation, technological firsts and progressive thinking. All of this is and more is on display at the Sharp Technology Innovation Museum.
Some of Sharp's illustrious history includes the invention of the Ever-Ready Sharp mechanical pencil in 1915. The product became one of the first internationally available mechanical pencils.
In 1953, they produced the first Japan-made TV sets and in 1964, the company developed the world's first transistor calculator, which was priced at a staggering ¥535,000 (US$1,400) and also released the first microwave oven with a turntable.
In the year 2000, Sharp's Mobile Communications Division created the world's first commercial camera phone. In June 2005 Sharp produced the largest LCD television at the time, with a display of 65 inches and again in 2007 with a screen size of 108 inches and 5 years later Sharp unveiled the largest production TV at the time, with a screen size of 80 inches as part of its famed Aquos range and went on sale in Japan at around ¥950,000. In 2013 Sharp developed the most efficient solar cell, converting a record 44.4% of sunlight into electricity.
Sharp began selling the world's first commercially available 8K TV in October 2015 with an eye watering price tag ¥16,000,000 (US$133,000). Japanese public broadcaster NHK started test broadcasts in 8k the following year and 200 hours of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was broadcast on their domestic satellite service BS8K. In March 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Sharp augmented one of its TV factories with high-end cleanrooms to manufacture surgical masks. The mask were in high demand and customers had a to enter a lottery for the right to purchase a box.
Address: 2613 Ichinomotocho, Tenri, Nara 632-000
Phone: 050-5433-1543 / 050-5433-4635
Hours: 9:30 - 16:30
Closed: Sat & Sun
Place to Eat Nearby
Tenri Hondori Shopping Arcade
Tenri Hondori Shopping Arcade stretches from just outside the train station to the Tenri-kyo Church Headquarters
1km in length, the shopping streets serves as the heart beat of the city with approximately 180 stores, including restaurants, service stores, and stores selling religious items related to Tenrikyo. During festivals and events, the street becomes a hub of activity with a vibrant atmosphere. The essence of the street is rooted in the religious town, and its "refreshing, polite, and disciplined rhythm" has become the charm that attracts people from all over the country.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of Japanese dishes, such as sushi, udon, and ramen, as well as international cuisine like Italian and Chinese. The arcade also offers fast food options, including burgers, pizza, and fried chicken. The street is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Tenri City.
Persimmon Museum Gojo
The Persimmon Museum, located within Gojo City, was established in 1994 with the aim of collecting and preserving the valuable history and utilization of persimmons in all forms as well as disseminating information about this nutritious orange fruit to the general public.
The Persimmon Museum is a unique museum that showcases the history, culture, and uses of persimmons with a collection of over 500 items related to persimmons, including traditional tools, clothing, and artwork. Visitors can learn about the different varieties of persimmons, their health benefits, and the ways in which they are used in Japanese cuisine. The museum also features a small orchard where visitors can see persimmons growing and even try some of the fruit.
The building is shaped like a persimmon fruit, constructed by connecting 236 triangular aluminium panels. It stands at a height of 8.7 meters and has a diameter of 18.2 meters. From late September to early December, approximately 200 varieties of fruits cultivated at the Fruit Tree and Medicinal Herb Research Center (located on site) are put on display. In the center of the building, there is seating for 50 people and a 100-inch screen where films and videos about persimmons are shown. The museum is predominately utilized as an educational venue for elementary school students but also serves as a place for interaction between general consumers and producers.
Address: 1345 Nishiyoshinochō Yushio, Gojo, Nara 637-0105, Japan
Hours: 9:00 - 16:30
Place to Eat Nearby
Spoon is a delightful cross-over cafe located in Gojo city.
It looks like the kind of restaurant you would come across on the Mediterranean. The menu is a mix of western cafe classics but the highlight are their desserts.
There is a great selection of cakes and parfaits that are out of this world.
Address: 3 Chome-5-22 Futami, Gojo, Nara 637-0071
Hours: 8:00 - 17:00
Nara Prefectural Museum of Folklore and Yamato Folklore Park
The Nara Prefectural Museum of Folklore was established in Yamatokōriyama, Nara Prefecture, Japan, back in 1974. It is situated at the base of the Yata Hills within the expansive 26.6-hectare Yamato Folk Park. This museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and showcasing various artifacts that provide insights into the daily life of Nara Prefecture during the Edo period through the early Shōwa era.
With a collection comprising a staggering forty-two thousand objects, the museum proudly displays 1,908 pieces that are recognized as Important Cultural Properties. These significant items shed light on forestry activities in the Yoshino District. Additionally, the museum's surroundings offer an open-air experience within the park, featuring fifteen Edo-period minka (countryside farmhouses) sourced from different parts of the prefecture. Notable among them is the Former Usui Family Residence. The park also has several seasonal gardens, open spaces and ponds and a hiking trail linking them all together.
To reach the Nara Prefectural Museum of Folklore, visitors can take a bus from Kintetsu Koriyama Station. It is important to note that the museum is closed on Mondays, except for instances where a national holiday falls on that day. In such cases, the museum will be closed on the following day. One fantastic perk for international visitors is that they can enjoy free admission by presenting their overseas passports.
Address: 545 Yatacho, Yamatokoriyama, Nara 639-1058, Japan
Hours: 9:00 - 17:00
Place to Eat Nearby
Nara specializes in cafes like this: little hidden suburban cafes that are full of charm and delicious beyond expectation. There is in fact a Japanese word to describe such places; it is 穴場 (pronounced anaba) and translates to something like "best-kept secret" or "secret watering hole"
Mugi-no-Uta epitomizes the word anaba. The owner decided to open this residential cafe after retiring as a pet-project but soon amassed a large cross-section of regular customers and regularly get visitors who drop by after hearing about the cafe via word-of-mouth.
Address: 1815-5 Jocho, Yamatokoriyama, Nara 639-1051, Japan
Hours: 8:00 - 17:30
Closed: Thursday & Friday
Muro Art Forest
Situated in the heart of Muro village, this enchanting open-air museum and art installation collection was inspired by the visionary sculptor Bukichi Inoue (1930-1997), a prominent local figure. In 2006, internationally acclaimed sculptor Dani Karavan designed a diverse range of art pieces within the park, adhering to the theme of "Harmony between Nature and Art."
This expansive park is a must-visit for art enthusiasts and those seeking breathtaking spaces. While accessible by car or bus, the park also offers a scenic two-hour hike through a mossy, canopied forest from Muroguchiono Station.
The Visitor's Center provides picnic tables, offering an ideal setting for a leisurely meal on sunny days. This tranquil spot serves as a perfect escape from the hectic pace of everyday life.
Upon entering the park, one is immediately struck by the presence of scattered monuments throughout the vast area.
The seamless integration of these artworks with the surrounding nature blurs the line between art and the original landscape. The sculptures are skillfully designed to blend harmoniously with the natural terrain, reminiscent of the borrowed scenery often found in Japanese gardens. This is the fundamental concept behind Muro Art Forest: a space that symbolizes the seamless "harmony between nature and culture."
Take a bus from Muroguchiono station (D46/室生口大野) for Muro-ji (室生寺) and get off at the final stop. From there, it is just a 20-minute walk to the art forest. The bus timetable can be found here.
Address: 181 Murou, Uda City, Nara Prefecture
Hours: 10:00 - 17:00 (April to October)
10:00 - 16:00 (November, December, and March)
(If a national holiday falls on Tuesday, the subsequent Wednesday is treated as a closing day)
*Closed from December 29 until the end of February
Admission: ¥410 for adults, ¥200 for high school students
Place to Eat Nearby
Meli-Melo is a rustic restaurant nestled in the picturesque mountains of Uda. Run by a charming French-Japanese couple, they offer stone-oven baked bread and a constantly rotating galette set menu. Each galette is carefully baked one by one right in front of your eye, ensuring the true flavors of France.
They also hold occasional special events serving French wine and cheese with live music and regularly participate in marches and cultural festivals.
Address: 1761 Muroushimotaguchi, Uda, Nara 633-0422, Japan
Hours: Thursday - Saturday (& Occasionally Sunday) 11:00 - 16:00
Closed: Mon - Wed, Sun
These buildings are designated tangible cultural properties. The former Kawamoto Family Residence consists of the main building, zashiki building, and storehouse/barn, all of which are traditional wooden structures with tiled roofs. The main building is a magnificent 3-story structure with a floor area of 135 square meters, and looks like it should be part of a period drama movie set.
The "Machiya Monogatari Museum" (Machiya Monogatari Kan) is a machiya-style townhouse located in Yamatokoriyama City, just a 10 minute walk from the train station. The complex was built in 1924 and was a rare three-story wooden structure that was originally a brothel and part of a legal red-light district known as yukaku. However, it ceased operations in 1958 following the establishment of the Anti-Prostitution law. Subsequently, the rooms were used as lodgings and rented out to tenants.
Thanks to its sturdy construction, the building has been well-preserved and remains in excellent condition. It showcases the aesthetic beauty of yukaku architecture, incorporating special architectural techniques such as intricately designed transom windows (ranma) and small rooms with high-quality sukiya-style craftsmanship. In 2014 it was designated as a registered tangible cultural property.
Since January 10, 2018, the registered tangible cultural property "Former Kawamoto Family Residence" was transformed into the "Machiya Monogatari Museum" and opened to the public. There is also a tiny cafe gift shop inside and populated with volunteer guides who are eager to show you around, teach you the history of the building and how it operated as a prosperous brother in days gone by.
Address: 10 Tosenjicho, Yamatokoriyama, Nara 639-1144, Japan
Hours: 9:00 - 17:00
Place to Eat Nearby
Wa Cafe Morika
Located in Yamato Koriyama City's shopping district, you'll find "Wa Cafe Morika," with a rich history spanning over 300 years and 15 generations, it's a a unique shop that specializes in beans and grains from Japan and abroad; everything from local rice to quinoa and amaranth.
It's an ideal destination for those seeking wholesome and nutritious options for their meals.
Recently renovated, the shop's appearance may deceive you at first glance, as it no longer resembles a traditional rice store. In fact, there's a cozy café space tucked away in the back, boasting a modern Japanese aesthetic and a soothing atmosphere. The menu at "Wa Cafe Morika" prominently features "low-calorie homemade Japanese sweets" meticulously crafted with ancient rice and grains. As these delectable treats are made to order, a bit of patience is required while they prepare them. Notably, all the ingredients used in the café are available for purchase at the Morika Rice Store. The friendly staff are more than happy to assist you with any inquiries regarding the ingredients or help you make a purchase.
Address: 3-1 Yanagi, Yamato Koriyama
Hours: 10:00 – 17:00
Closed: Saturday, Sunday, Public holidays
Katsuragi City Sumo Museum Kehayaza
Japan’s national sport of sumo wresting started around 2,000 years ago in present day Katsuragi City. The city has built a small museum to recognize and honor this fact. The museum is home to approximately 12,000 pieces of owned materials, including books, sumo wrestler rankings, and sumo tournament schedules, and sum wrestler hand prints. These materials are frequently utilized by students working on reports and enthusiasts of sumo.
At the center of this collection of unique and historical sumo paraphernalia is a regulation size sumo ring or “dohyo”. Under Japan’s Shinto religious traditions a real dohyo is a sacred space that only men are permitted to enter.
As the Katsuragi City Sumo Museum’s dohyo is for display and educational purposes, it is under no such restrictions and provides a truly one of a kind opportunity for anyone and everyone to enter the ring and take part in a sumo match for themselves with their friends or family. There are even sumo body suits and mawashi sumo belts that one can wear for the occasion.
The Katsuragi City Sumo Museum is open from 8:30am to 5pm Thursday through Monday. It is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Admission is free for overseas visitors. Present your passport at the ticket window.
Address: 83-1 Taima, Katsuragi, Nara 639-0276
Hours: 10:00 - 17:00
Closed: Tuesday & Wednesday
Admission: ¥300 for adults, ¥150 for children
Place to Eat Nearby
"Mokui" is a cafe located along the foothills of Katsuragi City. Situated in a serene area with expansive fields and rice paddies, it offers a taste of Italian cuisine, including pasta, pizza, dolce, and various drinks. The restaurant was designed to take full advantage of the view of Mt. Nijo with many tables placed right in front of the huge windows, offering fabulous countryside views as you enjoy your lunch.
During lunchtime, you can enjoy pasta sets or pizza sets that come with organic vegetable salad, daily dessert, and a drink. Many of the vegetables are home grown. Mokui also has a nice selection of authentic gelato to chose from and many salad sauces are available to buy.
The pizzas are baked to perfection in their giant stone oven and the carbonara came with huge cuts of bacon. The terraced area is dog friendly and there's even a family of goats on the premises.
Address: 423 Imazaike, Katsuragi, Nara 639-0274
Mon, Tue, Fri, Sat: 08:30 - 15:30, Wed: 11:30 - 15:30
Sun: 8:30 - 14:00
Best Museums in Nara Prefecture
Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn