Intermediatheque – Tokyo, Japan - Atlas Obscura


An unexpected curiosity cabinet hidden within a department store in the Japan Post tower. 


In front of Tokyo Station stands a white, old-fashioned building. Right behind it is a tall glass-walled skyscraper. The two contrasting buildings are actually two parts of Japan Post (JP) Tower. First designed in 1931, the former post office building has been a landmark of the area since then. It was so popular that the developers decided to keep many parts of the building when they set out to build the more space-efficient high rise.

Intermediatheque spreads across the second and third floor of JP Tower. The entrance is hidden inside a the KITTE department store, just about the last place you’d expect to find a cabinet of curiosities full of natural history, science, and artistic treasures. The unexpected location of this wunderkammer is intentional, meant to kick off the sense of surprise and discovery you’ll feel once you step inside.

Intermediatheque is a small museum jointly run by the University of Tokyo and Japan Post, opened to showcase many curious specimens and antiquities accumulated by the university through the 19th century. It is an eclectic, almost random collection of curiosities. This permanent exhibition features various animal skeletons, from frogs to a giraffe, tons of taxidermy, mineral specimens, mechanical and mathematical models, phonographs, antique camera equipment, African musical instruments and tribal wood carvings.

The museum is also home to a variety of artifacts from antiquity. One of the first items you’ll see upon entering is a mummified Egyptian priest in a sarcophagus. There are Greco-Roman coins, pre-Columbian clay figurines, ancient Persian bronze swords and pottery, among others, on permanent display.

On the upper floor, there’s also a smaller room called “Grey Cube,” which has a more modern, futuristic geometric design. It’s used for special exhibitions, but whatever kind of exhibition it is holding, an (almost random) item is displayed there permanently. In the corner of the room stands a retro-looking elevator, once part of the main building of the Tokyo University of Science, which is said to have inspired Einstein to formulate the general theory of relativity.

This legend is not true, however. Einstein’s one-month stay in Japan was between November-December 1922, while the elevator dates to 1926 when the university building was rebuilt following the devastating earthquake of 1923. Not to mention, of course, that Einstein had already introduced his famous theory to the world by then. It’s still an interesting piece with a story.

Know Before You Go

One minute's walk from the Marunouchi exit of Tokyo Station. Free entry. Free lockers are available near the entrance on the second floor.

Photography is allowed in certain exhibits. 

In partnership with KAYAK

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