After two years of major renovations from Sept. 2014 to Aug. 2016, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography reopened on September 3, 2016 for its 20th anniversary.
The building and location are the same, but the English name (nickname) has been changed to “Tokyo Photographic Art Museum” abbreviated as “TOP Museum” as indicated by their new URL (topmuseum.jp) and logo/letterhead. This is the third time that they changed their URL. The previous URL was syabi.com. When they changed the URL the last time, it was a pain to update links, etc. Now we have to do it again. This has been a common phenomenon in Japan, among local governments and governmental organizations whose URLs have changed a number of times, wreaking havoc on your bookmarks/favorites. I shall continue to call it the “Tokyo photography museum.” Won’t use any nicknames that keep changing.
Note that the museum’s Japanese and official (legal) name remains the same as Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography or Tokyo-to Shashin Bijutsukan (東京都写真美術館). And so, only the English-speaking world will be burdened with the task of mentioning both the old and new museum names whenever we write or talk about it during the next several years at least. Like “Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (formerly Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography).”
The museum’s major renovations included the replacement of lights with LEDs, new flooring replacing the carpeting, a second elevator, and a renovated cafe and museum gift shop. If you’ve visited the museum before, the biggest noticeable change is the 1st floor and the museum shop (Nadiff bookstore) that has moved from the 1st floor (where the main entrance/exit is) to the 2nd floor entrance hall of the south/back entrance.
It’s a wise move space-wise, but a museum’s gift shop should always be on the way to the exit. Very few people will exit the museum through the south entrance which is on the opposite side from Ebisu Station, the closest train/subway station. Although you can enter the museum through the south entrance without a ticket, they do not sell exhibition admission tickets here. You need to go downstairs to the 1st floor to buy admission tickets.
I’ve said this before, but this large entrance hall is a waste of space. It’s good for exhibition openings and other events, but for most of the year, few people come through here. I was hoping that they would renovate this space better, but looks like it will continue to inflate their air-conditioning bill. A similar problem exists at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo in Kiba Park that first opened at around the same time. These museums were planned and built during the reckless economic bubble of the late 1980s when people thought the sky was the limit.
The 1st floor is the main entrance to the museum, the closest to JR Ebisu Station. The 1st floor interior has been completely renovated with new flooring, wallpaper, and lighting. Looks very nice. It’s also the lobby of the museum’s event hall where they mainly screen movies. I bought an admission ticket here and there was a staff person at the entrance telling visitors to buy a ticket at the ticket counter a few steps away. Then another lady at the front of the line told me when a ticket clerk was available. There were only two ticket clerks selling tickets. Then I received a complicated explanation about various ticket prices. I just said “I want to see all the exhibitions and will pay in cash.” (There’s a separate admission for each of the exhibitions and a discount if you use a certain credit card. If you’re age 65 or older, you get a discount. The movie in the event hall is another ticket.) The ticket for all the exhibitions was ¥1,620 in September 2016. Ticket prices vary depending on the exhibitions.
If you want to see everything in the museum, take the elevator to the 4th floor and work your way down (use the stairs to go down). The 4th floor is the small library open to the public for free. Ticket not required. The library looks basically the same as before. You can read Japanese and overseas photo magazines and books. You can also search for books in the closed stacks with the computer terminal, but you need to read Japanese. No books can be taken out of the library. The 3rd and 2nd floors are large exhibition rooms. Show your ticket to enter the exhibition. The 2nd floor also has the spacious entrance hall and museum shop. The main exhibition is on the 3rd and 2nd floors. Then take the elevator or stairs to the basement floor (B1) where there is another large exhibition room usually for a different exhibition. (Photography is not allowed inside the exhibition rooms.) The 1st floor is where you exit to go back to Ebisu Garden Place or JR Ebisu Station.
The museum has three exhibition rooms on three floors and an event hall (mainly movies) on the 1st floor. When the museum reopened in September 2016, photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto had an intriguing Lost Human Genetic Archive exhibition on the 3rd and 2nd floors, the basement floor showed World Press Photos sponsored by Canon, and the event hall on the 1st floor screened a movie about Mother Teresa.
This is what you see when you approach the museum from JR Ebisu Station via the Skywalk moving sidewalk. Go left to enter main entrance. You can also enter from the right side after passing the cafe. It is in a corner of Ebisu Garden Place, a shopping mall.