The museum collects, houses, and preserves a comprehensive collection of art works and archaeological objects of Asia, focusing on Japan.
The museum holds over 110,000 objects, which includes 87 Japanese National Treasure holdings and 610 Important Cultural Property holdings (as of July 2005).
The museum came into being in 1872, when the first exhibition was held by the Museum Department of the Ministry of Education at the Taiseiden Hall.
This marked the inauguration of the first museum in Japan.
Since its establishment, the museum has experienced major challenges such as the Great Kanto-Earthquake in 1923, and a temporary closing in 1945, during World War II.
The museum went through several name changes, being called the Imperial Museum in 1886 and the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum in 1900, until it was given its present title in 1947.