Le Corbusier work in Tokyo

Le Corbusier spent a total of only eight days in Japan when he visited the country in November 1955.

He was in charge of designing the National Museum of Western Art, now one of 17 sites by Le Corbusier that have been designated as World Heritage Site.

Originally a painter himself, Le Corbusier insisted on natural lighting for the exhibition rooms though now for the protection of artwork, artificial lights are used. His idea of the "museum of unlimited expansion" can be observed in the spiral plans,  leaving the possibility for future expansion. In reality, a new exhibit space was added in underground and in a newer wing in the back.

Since his stay in Tokyo was very short, it was his  apprentices, Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura and Takamasa Yoshizaka contributed to the details of the design and supervision.


The building underwent extensive renovation in 1998 by adding a seismic isolation device below the foundation. The retrofit allowed for additional protection from earthquakes without compromising the exterior design of the building.

Tokyo Bunka Kaikan by Maekawa, resembling the Palace of Assembly in Chandigarh India
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan by Maekawa, resembling the Palace of Assembly in Chandigarh India

Impact on Japanese Architecture


The influence Le Corbusier had on Japanese architects can be found everywhere in Japan. Across the street from the Museum of Western Art you can see the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan by Maekawa which strongly resembles a project in India built around the same period by Le Corbusier. 

The huge piloti seen in the Hiroshima Peace Center by Kenzo Tange, is yet another prime example. 

More recent architects like the Pritzker-award winner Toyo Ito have frequently mentioned Le Corbusier in media interviews as well.

Visiting the Museum


The museum centers around the Matsukata Collection, mainly consisting of Rodin sculptures and Monet paintings. Since its opening in 1959, the museum has continued to add works to its collection, so now visitors are able to see a wide range of artwork from the Renaissance period to modern works.


Location: In Ueno Park, only few minutes away from the JR Ueno Station.  


Hours: From 9:30 to 17:30

Extended Hours on Friday and Saturday, until 20:00.

Free admission on Fridays and Saturdays after 17:00, and all day on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month. 

Closed on Mondays.