Arts of Japan

The MFA has one of the most comprehensive collections of Japanese art anywhere in the world. Reimagined galleries explore Japan’s art and visual culture from the 7th century to today, including painting, sculpture, decorative arts, and selections from the Museum’s vast collection of ukiyo-e prints. Evocative spaces include the renovated Japanese Buddhist Temple Room, which opened in 1909, and an adaptation of a traditional tea room, with tatami mats and an alcove. Multimedia displays illuminate performative art forms, such as Nō theater, bringing their drama to life.

The new space for the Museum’s unparalleled Japanese collection—which was the first of its kind in America when established in 1890, and now holds about 100,000 objects—will change regularly, giving visitors the opportunity to see even more works in a setting that honors and celebrates Japan’s rich history and cultural legacy.

Arts of Japan

Through treasures from the collection, this gallery introduces major forms of Japanese art including paintings, Nō masks and robes, swords and sword furnishings, netsuke carvings, and ceramics. Organized thematically, the presentations provide different approaches to appreciating distinctive Japanese genres and aesthetics such as an Edo-period folding screen by Ogata Kōrin, Waves at Matsushima (18th century), which depicts pine-clad islands with bold, decorative patterning and abstracted forms. The gallery also offers an overview of how the objects on view functioned in their original contexts and explores the creative traditions in which they were made.

Gallery 280

Japanese Buddhist Temple Room

This contemplative space invites reflection and appreciation of the Museum’s collection of Japanese Buddhist sculpture. In recent years, these celebrated works have undergone extensive conservation work, including the monumental Dainichi, Buddha of Infinite Illumination (1149), the supreme and central deity of Esoteric Buddhism. The room’s architectural elements, though not a replication of a specific site, are adapted from plans for an 8th-century monastic complex and give the sense of being inside a centuries-old Japanese temple hall.

Gallery 279

Japanese Prints Gallery

The MFA’s celebrated Japanese print collection is the the largest outside Japan, with over 50,000 sheets from the 8th century to the present. To show as many as possible and to preserve the prints’ delicate colors by reducing light exposure, the MFA rotates prints and presents a new thematic exhibition about every six months. “Reworking the Past: Japanese Prints Old and New,” the current exhibition in the prints gallery, compares 19th-century ukiyo-e prints to contemporary prints made from the 1950s through the 2010s.

Gallery 278A

  • Arts of Japan Gallery (Gallery 280)
  • Japan: Buddhist Temple Room Gallery (Gallery 279)
  • Japanese Prints Gallery (Gallery 278A)

Related Events

MFA Mobile

Wide-angle photo of the Japanese Buddhist Temple Room with several sculptures

Download MFA Mobile on Bloomberg Connects to hear from the curator, an artist, conservators, and others about key artworks and sections in these galleries. The audio tour includes text transcripts and detailed audio descriptions of the featured artworks for visitors who are blind or have low vision. Access the tour from home or bring your ear buds or headphones for the full in-gallery experience.

Download MFA Mobile


The renovation of gallery 280 was made possible with generous support from Caroline and John Rutherfurd.

Renovation of the Japanese Buddhist Temple Room was generously supported by the Vance Wall Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Lisbeth Tarlow and Stephen Kay, Bettina Burr, Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma Co. Ltd., and Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Cunningham Jr. 

The renovation of gallery 278A was made possible with support from UNIQLO USA.