A visitor looking at objects in Room 92

Rooms 92–94


The Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries
5000 BC – present

Visiting the gallery

Opening times

Daily: 10.00–17.00
See full opening hours

Advance booking advised

Gallery audio guides

Listen on the Audio app, available on the App Store and Google Play.

Explore the expansive history and culture of Japan in these beautiful galleries.

The Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries explore how continuity and change have shaped Japan's past and present, and the country's relationships with the rest of the world.

Through constant international exchange, Japan is a thriving, modern, high-technology society that also celebrates many elements of traditional culture.

From ancient flame pots, through samurai armour, to contemporary manga, the objects on display date from prehistory to the present. They reference the lives of emperors and also of ordinary townspeople.

Explore these stunning galleries, which showcase one of the most comprehensive collections of Japanese art and artefacts outside of Japan.

Gallery facts

  • The Japanese islands have been inhabited for more than 30,000 years. 
  • The world's first ceramics were made in Japan some 17,000 years ago by the Jōmon people, who lived in what is now northern Japan. 
  • Before the invention of ceramics, people stored their food in holes in the ground or in baskets, which were vulnerable to insects, animals and the weather.  
  • In 1639, Japan closed off almost all contact with the rest of the world. The Shoguns, who ruled Japan at the time, did this in the belief it would strengthen their control of the country. 
  • Japan remained relatively isolated from the world until 1853, when US Commodore Matthew Perry arrived with a fleet in Tokyo bay and demanded that Japan begin to trade with the US. 

City life and salon culture in Kyoto and Osaka, 1770–1900

April 2024 – March 2025

From the late 18th century into the beginning of the modern era, artistic creation and scholarship blossomed in two important and neighbouring Japanese cities: Kyoto and Osaka. New styles and approaches to painting emerged, intricate woodblock print technologies developed, and the number of publications dramatically increased. These dynamic trends were stimulated not just through Japanese ingenuity, but also due to contact with people and goods from the wider world through the port of Nagasaki.

The paintings, prints, books and craftworks in this display reflect the latest artistic trends at the time and showcase people's enjoyment of culture. Many people grouped together to take part in hobbies, from poetry, painting and music to horticulture and tea ceremony. Within these cultural spaces, official class distinctions were set aside and individuals communicated and interacted on equal terms – an ethos which spurred creativity across Japanese society.

This display is one of the results of a three-year collaborative international research project exploring salon culture in Kyoto and Osaka, supported by UK Research and Innovation through the Economic and Social Science Research Council, and by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science through an international joint research programme.

Visiting information

This display is free to visit, book a timed slot in advance to guarantee entry to the Museum and drop in.


  • Some objects in this collection feature on the British Sign Language multimedia guide. This resource is temporarily unavailable. You can access a selection of BSL films on your own device.
  • Some objects in this collection feature on the audio description guide, available on Soundcloud.
  • Seating is available.
  • View sensory map.

Visit  Accessibility at the Museum for more information.


Sponsored by

mitsubishi logo

Mitsubishi Corporation’s origins lie in the Three Corporate Principles, which have constituted its corporate philosophy since its foundation. The first of these principles states that the company will strive to enrich society, and Mitsubishi Corporation hopes to contribute towards enhancing the long-running friendly relations between the United Kingdom and Japan, as well as to support the proliferation of Japanese culture abroad. 

Mitsubishi Corporation’s partnership with the British Museum began in 2008 with the support of the Japanese Galleries, one of the most prestigious displays of Japanese art and artefacts outside of Japan. During this time, the company has also supported the Mitsubishi Corporation Project Curator position, a curatorial post within the Japanese Section with the responsibility for delivering the Museum’s Japanese public programme and for working with external Japan-related organisations.

Additional support has included the sponsorship of The power of dogū: ceramic figures from ancient Japan special exhibition in 2009 as well as the Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave special exhibition in 2017. Mitsubishi Corporation also contributed towards the acquisition of the ‘Perry Scroll’, a beautifully preserved 15 metre handscroll commemorating the second visit of US Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan in 1854.

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