The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan

The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan

Unveiling Japan’s Artistic Treasures in Tokyo at the Imperial Palace


Tokyo, a city renowned for its vibrant culture and rich history, is home to a cultural jewel that beckons art enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Nestled within the tranquil confines of the Imperial Palace grounds lies the Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan.

Reopened to the public in November 2023 following extensive renovations, this museum offers a captivating journey through Japan’s artistic heritage, showcasing treasures once owned by the esteemed Imperial Family.

Immersing yourself in the museum’s diverse collection reveals the breadth and depth of Japan’s artistic legacy. From elegant calligraphy and exquisite paintings to intricately crafted ceramics, lacquerware, and metalworks, each artifact tells a story of craftsmanship and cultural significance.

Home to Some of Japan’s Masterpieces

Sarashina Diary. Fujiwara no Sadaie. Kamakura period, 13th century. National Treasure
Sarashina Diary. By Fujiwara no Sadaie. Kamakura period, 13th century. National Treasure

Among the notable pieces is the majestic Chinese Lions by Kano Eitoku, a masterpiece dating back to the Momoyama Period (late 16th century), designated as a National Treasure of Japan.

The genesis of the museum can be traced back to 1989 when the Imperial Family generously donated a plethora of artworks to Japan. In response to this gesture, the Museum of the Imperial Collections was established in 1993, serving as a custodian of these invaluable treasures. Subsequent donations from esteemed members of the Imperial Family, including Prince Chichibu, Empress Kojun, Prince Takamatsu, and Prince Mikasa, have further enriched the museum’s collection.

The delicate nature of many artifacts, crafted from materials such as wood, paper, and silk, necessitates careful preservation. To mitigate the risk of damage, the museum presents most pieces to the public for a limited time frame, ensuring their longevity for future generations to appreciate.

A visit to Sannomaru Shozokan offers a rare opportunity to witness many artworks, with lots of pieces awaiting their moment in the spotlight in the future. You can find details of the latest upcoming exhibitions on the museum website here

Chinese Lions (right screen). By Kano Eitoku. Momoyama period, 16th century. National Treasure

A meticulously curated collection through time 

The collection has been formed through various historical contexts and can be broadly divided into three categories.

Firstly, the items inherited from before 1868 include works passed down within the Kyoto Imperial Palace, as well as many masterpieces of Japanese classical art. Most of these were obtained during the Edo period (1603–1867). Secondly, some items were presented to the Imperial Family or commissioned works by Imperial Household Artists from after 1868 (the Meiji era and beyond). Finally, there are also items presented to the Imperial Family by foreign countries mostly from the Meiji era onwards, as Japan became a modern state and the Imperial Family engaged in diplomatic activities.

Set against the backdrop of the Imperial Palace, the museum seamlessly blends traditional and contemporary elements in its design. Drawing inspiration from the palace’s architectural motifs, the renovated building exudes elegance and sophistication, inviting visitors to embark on a journey through history and artistry. Currently, one building of the complex has officially opened, but another building is under construction next door, with a full opening scheduled for 2026.

Tickets and access

Timed entry tickets are required, which means you will be allocated a timeframe within which you can enter the museum using your ticket. There is further detailed information available on the museum’s website. Conveniently located just a 5-minute walk from Otemachi Station, accessing Sannomaru Shozokan is effortless via multiple Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines. Alternatively, it is within a 15-minute walk from Tokyo Station.

The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan
1-8 Chiyoda, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, 100-0001
(within the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace)

*All works in this article are the national property of Japan.