Totally freaky: Japan's weirdest museums

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Kylie Northover gets off the beaten track and on to a bizarre one in Tokyo.

There's no shortage of tourist hotspots in Tokyo, where a walk down an average city street is an experience in itself, but some of the capital's quirkiest encounters are those not always listed in the guidebooks.

The Japanese love a museum and alongside the city's many well-known galleries and institutions are dozens of smaller, often privately-run museums dedicated to just about anything you care to imagine, all well worth a detour from the traditional tourist landmarks.

Meguro Parasitological Museum

You won't find many English translations – or tourists for that matter – at the Meguro Parasitilogical Museum, but its hundreds of jars of preserved parasite specimens, many of them spilling out of organs and dead animals, don't really require much explanation.

The world's only parasite museum aims to be an educational affair, but its value lies more in the astounding gross-out factor. If you've ever wondered what a preying mantis infected with horsehair worm looks like, or a how leeches attach themselves to the eyelids of sea turtles, this museum will provide the answers in gruesome, well-lit detail.

The prized exhibit is a perfectly preserved 8.8-metre long tapeworm, reportedly removed from a healthy(ish) man.

Be sure to stop at the gift shop where you can buy preserved pinworm and hook worm in key rings.


Thankfully, eating and drinking is not allowed inside the museum.

4-1-1, Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. Nearest train station: Meguro.

Ace World Luggage Museum

This personal collection of the owner of Japan's Ace luggage company (the world's first producer of nylons bags) is better than is sounds, with more than 400 examples of handbags, travel bags and trunks made from every conceivable skin. It could almost double as an endangered species display - from antique trunks made from antelope to zebra-skin handbags and bags made from the skins of seal, elephant, shark and even aardvark. Bizarre.

1-8-10 Komagata, Taito-ku, Tokyo. Nearest train station: Asakusa

ADMT Museum of Advertising and Marketing

Japan loves its advertising, as evidenced by the colossal neon signs that light up every street, and this free museum outlines the history of the country's industry.

The permanent display features a timeline of advertising, from Edo-era woodblocks, revealing that product placement has been around some time, to today's TV ads.

The display of advertising posters from the 20th century is a graphic designer's dream, while their collection of vintage bric-a-brac – toys, games, cereal boxes, etc – is an amazing potted history of Japan's pop culture.

Higashi-Shimbashi 1-5, Caretta Shiodome B1F. Nearest station: Shimbashi.

The Tobacco and Salt Museum

Another of the city's museums that is more entertaining than it sounds, outlining the importance of salt and tobacco in Japan's history, where both were, until recently, government monopolies. As well as the educational side there are great displays of vintage cigarette packets, pipes and all manner of smoking paraphernalia from around the world. This funky museum also hosts temporary exhibitions of all kinds, from 19th century prostitutes' wigs to Mexican silverware. Well worth a visit.

Jinnan 1-16-8, Shibuya-ku, Nearest station: Shibuya

Other bizarre Tokyo museums worth a visit:

Ryogoku Fireworks Museum, 2-10-8 Ryogoku

The Iris Button Museum, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Hamamachi 1-11-8

The Japanese socks Museum, 1-9-3 Midori

The Laundry Museum, 2-11-1 Shimomakuro, Ota-ku,