Toilets, Noodles and Bonsai! Japan's 5 Most Unique Museums

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday March 7, 2021
Originally published on March 2, 2021

It's anybody's guess whether the Tokyo Olympics will proceed this summer, as planned. Even though the road is rough for organizers and athletes, the highly anticipated event has shined a spotlight on Japan as a premier travel destination.

Tokyo's Shinjuku Ni-chome gay district, packed with more than 400 apartment-size bars, has been fighting to stay afloat, while Bloomberg recently reported the government's determination to jumpstart domestic travel.

When you're ready, Japan is ready for LGBTQ visitors. In 2019, "Queer Eye" ventured to Japan to showcase the country's gorgeous design and style possibilities. The country's astounding 5,700 museums prove that there's plenty to see and celebrate, and while the Edo-Tokyo Museum, Mori Art Museum and Hakone Open-Air Museum are some of the most visited, this tiny country of 47 prefectures offers some quirkier finds.

Cup Noodles Museum, Kanagawa Prefecture

A fun destination for the culinary inclined, the Cup Noodles Museum in Kanagawa Prefecture is full of exciting activities. Along with interesting exhibitions, such as a replica of the shed where instant noodles were invented and a small collection of modern art pieces made from Cup Noodles, visitors can make their own personalized cup noodle at My Cup Noodles Factory. At My Chicken Ramen workshop, guests can make their own instant ramen noodles from scratch. The Noodles Bazaar also gives visitors a chance to try out nine different noodle dishes.

Towel Museum of Art, Ehime Prefecture

An incredibly unique institution, the Towel Museum of Art in Ehime Prefecture is the world's first towel museum dedicated to the art of towel manufacturing. Inside, visitors can find galleries and displays showcasing intricate traditional towels, art made from towels and an exhibition on the towel-making process. The museum gift shop features an array of original goods and local products available for purchase.

TOTO Museum, Fukuoka Prefecture

Are you in love with your loo? Japan's famous TOTO brand is best known for its bath ware and in celebration of its 100th anniversary, opened the TOTO Museum in 2017. The elegant two-story building leads visitors through the history of TOTO, especially the evolution of its toilets. From its first ceramic flush toilet seat developed in 1914 to its modern toilets with bidets and heated seats, guests can learn about the company's evolution, spanning more than a century. While the museum's signage is in Japanese, visitors can download the museum's app for an English audio guide or to translate the signs.

Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama Prefecture

Located in the heart of the Omiya Bonsai Village, the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum is home to more than 120 bonsai masterpieces and bonsai-related artifacts, such as woodblock prints, books, bonsai pots and more. Art pieces are selected in accordance with the season and around 50 pots of bonsai are always on display in the garden and gallery. After visiting the museum, travelers can wander around the village and check out local artisans and stores. The village was originally founded in 1925 when the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 forced bonsai nurseries and garden industry workers in central Tokyo to relocate.

Kyoto International Manga Museum, Kyoto Prefecture

The museum, housed in a former elementary school, celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2021 and boasts more than 300,000 items, dating back to 1874. Exhibitions include 100 Maiko (apprentice geisha) illustrations and the 20th anniversary of the Genga' (Dash) project, which reproduces original manga drawings.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.