Sompo Japan Museum of Art

An interesting museum with a good view of Tokyo

 By Peter Sidell   Aug 28, 2014

A few minutes' walk west of Shinjuku Station, the Sompo Museum is one of a handful of 'corporate' museums in Tokyo, along with the Bridgestone Museum of Art. On the 42nd floor of the Sompo office building, it's not that big, but it holds a diverse range of special temporary exhibitions, and has a couple of other features which add to its interest.

After you take the ear-popping ride up in the elevator and pay the entrance fee, which depends on the particular exhibition, you come first to the observatory. It faces east, so you only get the one prospect of the city, but it is an impressive one; you have a close-up of the striking Cocoon Tower, a good view of Shinjuku Park and, on a clearer day than I had, you're able to pick out both Tokyo Tower and the Skytree. It's enjoyable to spend a few minutes here, taking in the view and clearing your mind of the noise and bustle of Shinjuku. 

The special exhibitions generally last around two or three months, and can cover anything and everything; in the past they've had pop art and 'kinetic art', classical painting and childrens' book illustrations, impressionism and modern sculpture. Many of the exhibitions focus on European artists or collections, sometimes less well-known ones, and there have also been regular group shows by young Japanese artists. When I've been there before the museum hasn't been crowded, so I've been able to enjoy wandering back and forth through the rooms at my leisure, without having to press through crowds of people.

After you finish with the main exhibition, there's a single room at the end with a selection from the museum's small but impressive permanent collection. Pride of place here goes to Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers', energetic and vibrantly colourful, and there are also paintings by Cezanne, Gaugin, Renoir, and Grandma Moses. Japan is ably represented here by Seiji Togo, with large, bold portraits painted in an angular, semi-abstract style, making a strong impression.

As is the way of things, the exit leads directly into the souvenir shop; as well as the usual range of cards, books, prints, stationery and knick-knacks, they also have some very fun 3-D viewers, allowing you to enjoy a handful of famous paintings in extra depth.

Written by Peter Sidell
Japan Travel Partner

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