The sprawling Kyoto National Museum campus, an homage to Japanese art and history, includes outdoor gardens featuring The Thinker sculpture by Auguste Rodin, a wing (new in 2014) housing permanent collection pieces, an older building showing a rotating slate of special exhibits and its own traditional Japanese tea house.
Similar in its permanent collections to the Tokyo National Museum, the Kyoto National Museum houses ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, archeological relics, intricate kimonos and more, but the special exhibitions and rotating showcases are where the museum really shines. Past displays have featured the art of Zen; photos, swords and artwork illustrating life and times of Sakamoto Ryoma (who helped usher in the modern Meiji government in the 1800s); vivid scrolls of humans and animals from the Kosan-ji temple; Buddhist art; and a feature exhibition on the work of Edo-period painter and poet Yosa Buson. Most items feature full signage in both Japanese and English.
The Kyoto National Museum is located at 527 Chaya-machi, Higashiyama-ku. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday (9:30am-5pm on Tues, Thurs, and Sun and 9:30-8pm on Fri and Sat). Admission to the collection galleries is $5 (520Y) for adults, $2.50 (260Y) for students and free for young children; special exhibitions cost extra. Bags may be subject to inspection.