Exploring Kyoto's Unusual Buildings Series - Once a Bank, Now the Museum of Kyoto

In this series, native Kyoto college students introduce you to buildings that lost their purpose, but have found new life after being converted for other uses! This time, get acquainted with the Museum of Kyoto. This museum features a dignified annex building that used to be a bank. It's a popular spot where you can enjoy exhibitions and a variety of shops.

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy through them, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

What's the Museum of Kyoto?

The Museum of Kyoto is a facility where the general study of Kyoto's culture takes place. It's made up of the main building and the annex building. At the main building, you can enjoy exhibitions, movies, shopping and dining. The annex building, on the other hand, used to be the Kyoto branch of the Bank of Japan, and is designated as an Important Cultural Asset of Japan. There are no fixed exhibits, but you can enter the annex for free and enjoy the architecture of the building itself as a kind of exhibit. Special events like music performances are also held at the annex from time to time. (An entrance fee may be charged for some performances!) 

Head Inside the Symbol of the Museum: The Annex Building That Used to be the Kyoto Branch of the Bank of Japan!

The annex building was completed in 1906, and has distinctive and beautiful red brick facade.

When you enter via the entrance facing Sanjo-dori, you'll see the counter that was used as the bank's reception area.

The wide hall that extends behind the counter is where the sales office used to be. With light streaming in from the windows and the high ceiling, it feels open and spacious. In places like the ceiling, you'll spot fancy and intricate decorations.

The doors and windows facing outside are fitted with iron doors and cannot be opened or closed from the outside. It's a design feature that's befitting of its past use as a bank where money was kept.

Pictured here is a cafe that's set up in the same space as where the bank vault used to be. The thick door of the vault remains today.

The Main Building Where You Can Learn About Kyoto's History and Culture

Next, there's the main building of the museum.

In the general exhibition, you can learn about Kyoto's history, information about the Gion-matsuri (Gion Festival), Kyoto-related arts and crafts, and much more. The audio guide is available in English, Chinese and Korean (available only for the "Kyoto History" corner).

The film theater on level 3 is where you can catch classics and some of the most famous Japanese films in Kyoto, the birthplace of Japan's film industry. Screenings are held twice a day and entry to the theater is included in the general exhibition entry fee. Unfortunately, they're only available in Japanese, but it's worth it to catch a glimpse of some beautiful scenes of olden Japan.

Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

Enjoy Some Shopping and Dining!

Pictured here is the Roji Tenpo area on level 1 of the main building. It recreates the look of the Kyomachiya (Kyoto townhouses) of the late Edo period (1603 - 1868). From cafes to soba noodle restaurants and Japanese goods stores, you'll be able to enjoy shopping and dining in this interesting atmosphere.

This is the museum shop that's also located on level 1 of the main building. The Art Postcards (100 yen) that feature prints of the museum's pieces are recommended items. With over 200 items that feature Kyoto's famous sights and events, you'll be able to find the perfect souvenir that's representative of Kyoto.

There are also shops at the annex, so be sure to check those out as well!



The Museum of Kyoto is centrally located in Kyoto and easily accessible, so it's a great place to visit if you're dropping by the area!

Kansai Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

tsunagu Japan Newsletter

Subscribe to our free newsletter and we'll show you the best Japan has to offer!

Subscribe Now!
Get your Japan discounts here!

About the author

We're a group of local college students in Kyoto that produce information about Kyoto's charms to release to the world. We write articles about Kyoto using information that only locals could know. We hope you enjoy our work!
  • Check out our writers’ top Japan travel ideas!

Restaurant Search

Sign up to our free newsletter to discover the best Japan has to offer.