Tokyo has no shortage of museums and cultural institutions to explore. For most visitors passing through the city in just a few short days, these excellent, well-curated displays compete for time with other muse-see sites and experiences, often coming out on the short end of the stick. But for those planning to be in Tokyo for more than a week or in a season of unsavory weather (think rainy season or the high heat of summer), a Grutto Pass is a fantastic investment.
The Grutto Pass (also sometimes rendered as a Grutt Pass) costs ¥2200, and allows free or discounted entry into 95 museums in the greater Tokyo area. The pass is valid for two months from the date of first use. There’s a bit of a catch for winter pass holders, as all passes expire on March 31st, no matter if you have completed your two month period or not.
The institutions are divided by geographical location within the book. Most are located in Tokyo proper, but you’ll find coupons for some as far afield as Saitama, Chiba and Yokohama. The pass is printed in both Japanese and English
Each time you visit a museum, the staff will also give you the location’s stamp, which can be imprinted on one of the first few pages of the booklet. If you collect stamps from each of the seven sections of the booklet, you can mail in the form and potentially receive a prize (subject to a lottery drawing).
Despite living in Tokyo previously, I’d never purchased a Grutto Pass. I finally decided to see if it was worth it this past April, and used my pass through early June. I purchased it at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. I recommend purchasing the pass at a museum that costs at least ¥500 or over. Perhaps it’s purely psychological, but it’s easier to see how you’ll get your money’s worth if you start with a higher priced institution.
To get the pass to pay for itself, you’ll need to visit at least 3 or 4 museums, potentially more. In two months, this is more than achievable. In one to two weeks, it pays to sit down with your itinerary and the pass information online to see what kind of savings you would enjoy.
On my part, I found that having the Grutto Pass encouraged me to visit museums I never would have sought out previously … several I had never even heard of before! I enjoyed a free visit to the zoo with my daughter, got discounted admission to a special exhibit at the Tokyo-Edo Museum, wandered the new Sword Museum at no cost, and checked out several exhibits on porcelain, ancient art and paper entirely gratis.
In the end, I visited 16 museums (or other cultural spots) within my two month period. Had I purchased entrance tickets for each site individually, the total would have come to ¥12,000. I didn’t realize until I added everything up later just how massive of a savings it was. There are still a few I’d like to check out so I’m actually considering purchasing the pass again in the future.