With evolution the main theme, the National Science Museum is more natural history than technology. Dinosaurs and stuffed animals are the main features, but there’s also a section on the solar system plus interactive galleries where you can carry out your own little experiments.
Getting the priorities right (always fair enough), the museum’s strengths clearly lie in the delicate, piecing together of skeletons, rather than the slapping together of English explanations and signposts. Some of the exhibits might well remain a mystery and although an English floor plan is available from reception, finding your way through the buildings could be the very journey of discovery itself.
The museum has three buildings. Once through the main entrance, you’ll be in the “Main Building”. The others are the “Midori-Kan Building” and the “New Building”. These are signposted in English, but not very clearly. In fact, it’s much better to follow the colour code system on the Japanese signs. The signposts for the “Midori-Kan Building” are in green and those for the “New Building” are in blue.
From dinosaurs to Homo Erectus, the first floor of the Main Building traces the evolution of living creatures. Moving onto the second floor, a stuffed and portly Stella Sea lion will greet you, and the theme is Natural Selection. The third floor is quite diverse. There’s an exhibition of plants and animals specific to Asia, a small collection of traditional Japanese clocks and also various items relating to the exploration of space. These include the actual flags planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 space missions and the Kokubunji Meteorite, which fell on Japan in 1986.
The New Building has five floors. On floor B1 there are fossils and dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period. Moving upstairs and interaction becomes the name of the game in the “Discovery Plaza” and “Discovery Wood”. The remaining floors are reserved for special exhibitions. For latest details see the listings magazine “Metropolis”.
In terms of things to see, the smallest building is the Midori Kan Building, but there are two big reasons to pull you in. The first is that the stuffed body of Hachiko is on the second floor. Who? Well, if you’ve already been to Shibuya then no doubt you’ve wept your tears. If you haven’t, well now pull out those tissues, for Hachiko was a dog who waited faithfully, night, after night at the station. For years he waited, but his master never returned. The little dog couldn’t understand that his master had died. It’s a terrible tale. Nevermind, the second reason is not so sad, just plain revolting – a giant pickled squid with all its legs extended! And if that’s not enough, there’s a restaurant on the first floor.
How to get there
The museum is situated in Ueno Park. Take the JR Yamanote Line or JR Ueno Station. Leave the station via the Park exit. Once in the park follow the signs.
Open: 9am to 4:30 pm. (Ticket office closes at 4:00 pm).
In addition, on the first and third Saturdays of the month, the museum is open for two hours after sundown. This is for astronomical observation.
Closed: Monday (except national holidays), and Tuesday if Monday was a national holiday.
Adults: 420 yen. Under 18’s: 70 yen.
Astronomical observation ticket prices, Adults: 210 yen, under 18 ‘s: 60 yen.
The National Science Museum Homepage: www.kahaku.go.jp/english/
Tel: 03 3272 8600
Suggested amount of time needed (Excluding journey time)
2 – 2½ hours
Other Places to Visit Nearby
Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, the National Museum of Western Art – all situated in Ueno Park.
Ueno and Ueno Park
Featured image in this article by Maarten Heerlien, CC 2.0