When you hear the name “Garden Museum” (“Teien Bijutsukan”), you probably assume that the garden is the main attraction. Perhaps that’s why the word for “garden” in the name of the museum isn’t translated into English: “Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum”. Don’t get me wrong now, the garden of the museum is beautiful, but if you visit the Teien Art Museum, be sure to visit the Art Deco-style building!
The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum is a mansion of the royal Asaka family, surrounded by a beautiful garden in the Shirokanedai area, (Where everyone would love to live!)
It was Prince Yasuhiko Asaka who had this house built as his residence, and he was an aristocrat who was married to the daughter of the Meiji Emperor. In a time when traveling abroad was quite uncommon, Yasuhiko and his wife stayed a long time in France. It was the time when Art Deco style was popular in Europe. Therefore, after his return to Japan, he decided to build his new residence in Art Deco style.
(Unlike Art Nouveau with its playful and ornate design, Art Deco has more straight lines and could be mass produced)
Japan in the 1930s
The house was completed in 1933. Upon entering you will see glass doors in Art Deco design. The fact that the house belonged to aristocrats can be seen from the fact that there is a special waiting room for noble guests right at the entrance. There and in other places in the house clothes of the former inhabitants are displayed. This helps to imagine the life and atmosphere of the people back then.
The exhibition area extends from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor. It is possible to take pictures everywhere, except for some photos and clothing items. The decorations in Art Deco style are fascinating. I caught myself taking hundreds of photos of wallpapers and floor tiles.
Great news for French-speaking readers: as most of the Art Deco items were designed by French artists Henri Rapin and René Lalique, there are also brochures and explanations in French!
Do you remember The State Guest House Akasaka Palace? It is a Neo-Baroque style palace built for the Crown Prince. There you will find two entrances in Art Nouveau style. That was really interesting to see but I have never seen an Art Deco building where the entire interior in the same design.
What kind of people was the Asaka family? They must have been very trendy because Art Deco was up to date at the time.
In one of the rooms, old films show employees’ children playing wildly in the garden while photos expose colorful costume parties. The Asakas must have been fun people with a big heart.
Let’s go to the café!
If you need a break, go to the Museum Cafe! There is a charming café overlooking the garden in the new annex of the museum, which is connected by a corridor to the old building. Especially the cake is delicious here! (There are also snacks).
In the new annex, you’ll find an art museum with changing exhibitions. During our visit, there was an exhibition about old children’s picture books. I discovered picture books from my own childhood and felt a bit nostalgic…
Don’t forget the garden!
So how about the garden of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum? There is a large western garden where you can lie down on the grass and enjoy the sun.
There is also a beautiful Japanese garden hidden in a corner of the grounds. It has a tea house, an important cultural monument. For foreign guests, Prince Asaka set up extra chairs so they wouldn’t have to sit on the tatami floor. Chairs in a teahouse were very unusual at the time. This shows again the open mind of the inhabitants at that time.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum was completely different from what I had imagined. It was amazing to immerse yourself in the world of Art Deco. If you visit the museum on a sunny day, you can enjoy the garden, but the quality of the museum is extremely high. It’s worth a visit even on rainy days!!
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
5-21-9 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: 10: 00-18: 00 (admission until 17:30)
Closed: Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday (open on public holidays, closed the next day), New Year’s Eve
Entrance fee: 200 yen
JR Yamanote Line “Meguro Station” East Exit / Tokyu Meguro Line “Meguro Station” 7 minutes walk from the main entrance
Toei Mita Line, Tokyo Metro Namboku Line “Shirokedai Station” Exit 1, 6 minutes on foot