A visitor to “Sesshu — Master of Ink and Brush” at the Tokyo National Museum, Ueno, stops in front of one of the paintings. She has just been told to do so by the audio guide she’s holding in her hand, which then launches into a detailed explanation of the painting’s historical background and notable features. The commentary is perfectly timed to match the walking pace of a museum browser.

“This is great!” says Ayako Morita, 23, who is using the audio device for the first time. “I would have just walked past some of the most important paintings if I hadn’t been listening to this.”

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