SCIENCE MUSEUMS IN TOKYO
There are several science museum and science-related facilities in Tokyo that tourists can visit. At the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Mitaka, Tokyo, visitors can observe the facilities on site every day. A meteorite found in Antarctica is on display at the National Institute of Polar Research in Tachikawa, Tokyo,
RiSuPia (in Ariake in Kto Ward) is a digatal museum that opened in 2006 and covers 1,300 square meter. It features 24 games and displays that bring mathematics and the natural science to life and makes them fun, including a game called prime number hockey. The museum is run by Panasonic. Website: RiSuPia site panasonic.com
The Cosmo Planetarium Shibuya opened in May 2011. It produces the night sky and celestial images with traditional planetarium technology and the latest computer graphics. Owners of the planetarium---which has 120 seats in a 17-meter dome--- say the facility produces the largest number of stars (265,000 of any planetarium in the world.
Tepco Electric Energy Museum (Shibuya Ward) is a hands-on, virtual reality museum that welcomes half million visitors a year. Operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), it features a number of hands-on thrills related to electricity. One display contains a series of 16 television screens that show aerial photographs. One misstep and you'll experience a virtual reality fall. Website: Tepco Electric Energy Museum site tepco.co.jp
Shibuya Karakuri Museum (Shibuya Ward) contains 40 pieces of trick art that appear different from different angles. To achieve the effect you need to look at the art with one eye closed while moving your head.
Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum (Yokohama) features an 80-centimeter-long, 12-kilogram, remote-controlled robotic coelacanth (an ancient fish once thought to be extinct). It swims for several minutes three times a day: 10:00am, 2:00pm and 4:00pm Website: Mitsubishi Minatomirai Museum site mhi.co.jp
National Science Museum
National Science Museum (Ueno Park) is a unique museum with three above-ground floors and four below-ground ones. It houses both international and Japanese achievements in biology, earth science and It contains a meteorite collection, two stuffed dogs that survived in Antarctica by themselves, a tank full of giant kelp, and real forest with bugs crawling around below the leaves
National Museum of Nature and Science (NMNS) is the nation’s only state-administered comprehensive science museum, as well as the largest, with over 4.4 million specimens in its collection. Established in 1877, the main activities of the institution are to research, collect and preserve, and educate through exhibits and programs, with a goal to deepen the public’s appreciation for science. Over 10,000 items are on permanent exhibition in the two main buildings (Japan Gallery and Global Gallery), in addition to a special temporary exhibition. The museum also contains “Theater 360”, featuring spatial, audio, and visual presentations on themes such as space, dinosaurs, and evolution.
The 38 hands-on devices on the second floor include "Air Basketball," in which visitors try to throw a beach ball through a basketball hoop using a current of air emitted from a ventilator. A new annex to the museum that opened in 2004 houses a satellite retrieved by a Japanese astronaut on the Space Shuttle, skeletons of huge Basilosaurs, strangler figs from Malaysia and a stuffed elephant that when alive was given to Japan as a present from India after World War II.
A spherical, walk-through screen featured at the 2005 Expo in Aichi has been recently added to the museum. The screen is 12.8 meters in diameter. Viewers watch short video presentations from a bridge-like aisle in the center of the sphere. One of the videos is about dinosaurs. Another is about the molten mantel region of the earth,
About 1 million people visit the museum every year. The annex offers detailed information in English as well as Japanese and in some cases has video images of the objects that visitors are looking at. Visitors can purchase a card which allows them to record data from the museum’s computers and get more daat at home using the museum’s website. Location: 7-20 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-8718 +81-3-5777-8600; Hours Open: 9:00 a.m.-5:00pm/-8:00pm (Friday and Saturday) Closed: Monday and December 28-January 1. Getting There: 5-minute walk from JR or subway Ueno Station Website: National Science Museum site kahaku.go.jp
Advanced Technology Exhibition Hall
Advanced Technology Exhibition Hall (Minato Ward, Metro Ginza Line, four-minute walk from Exit 3 of Gaiemmae Station) features many high-tech systems to entertain visitors, such as the Virtual Fitting, which allows visitors to discover what colours are best suited to them as their image is projected on a screen showing clothes in various colours. The Bio-Texture Modelling displays faithful reproductions of human organs and bones created using a 3-D printer. The facility opened in 1989 and covers five themes, including lifestyle and security. In keeping with the themes, displays include a robot that can carry on conversation and an artificial arm that can be controlled by brain signals. The facility’s goal is to feature advanced technologies, so displays are renewed each year.
The Japan News reported: “Line yourself up with the manga speech bubbles or background art projected on a screen, strike a pose, and the Manga Generator system will put you into the scene. It’s just one of the fun programmes offered at the Advanced Technology Exhibition Hall @tepia in Tokyo. The facility operated by the Association for Technological Excellence Promoting Innovative Advances (TEPIA) gives visitors a chance to experience 50 different forward-looking technologies developed by universities and companies. [Source: Japan News/Asia News Network, July 3, 2014]
“I tried the Manga Generator myself, posing in the middle of a full swing punch in front of a drawing of an enormous hole on a thick concrete wall projected on a screen. The system created a scene of my fist breaking through the wall with a "Don" (Bang) sound effect, scrawled in large letters. Visitors have up to 10 seconds to pose after the balloon or background are projected. The system uses motion capture technology to read the movements of people into a computer. It was developed by the Kanagawa Institute of Technology to "let people enter the world of manga and make up the story as they go along".
“The Manga Generator extrapolates the emotions of visitors from the locations of their elbows, armpits and backbone, and creates onomatopoeia to fit the pose. In addition to the wall-smashing scene, visitors can become heroes by "hurling a huge meteorite" or "fighting an unidentified creature" as well. If visitors are too shy to move forcefully enough, no onomatopoeia appears or the background goes dark. Each visitor can print their finished scene and bring it home as a souvenir. "I really enjoyed it. I felt like I had absolute power," said Hikaru Toda, a third-year student at Yashiro Middle School in Kato, Hyogo Prefecture, who visited on a school outing. Yuriko Nishioka, a publicist for the facility, said, "We set aside complicated explanations of the technology, and designed the facility so visitors can just enjoy a hands-on experience with the featured technologies." Yuri Mitani, a 39-year-old homemaker of Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, who visited the facility with her one-year-old daughter Rena, said, "I look forward to seeing how the exhibited technologies are actually put to use in our lives when my daughter is older." Location: 2-8-44 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0061. Hours Open: 9:30am to 5:00pm. Closed Mondays (If a Monday is a holiday or a substitute day, the hall is open and closed on the next day). The hall is also closed at the end of Japan’s fiscal year (in March-April) for replace some of the exhibition items. Admission: Free. Getting There: Tokyo Metro Ginza Line a 4-minute walk from Exit 3 of Gaiemmae Station.
Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Odaiba) has interactive displays that explain science and atomic power. One of them is a glass vacuum bowl that contains a ball of plasma that emits electric charges. Touch the bowl and streaks of "lighting" reach out from your hands. Another device called the "standing wave" uses Styrofoam particles to show how sound waves move. The museum is also known as simply as the Miraikan.
Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation allows visitors of all ages to interact with its exhibits in order to come away with a greater understanding of the recent scientific discoveries that are changing the way we view the world.Ryotaro Maeda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “You can have fun creating your own mini-earthquake at the Miraikan museum. A collection of three seismometers there is sensitive enough to pick up vibrations from people stomping on the floor or pounding on an adjacent table. "Small children like this system very much," said Mayumi Hoshiba, one of the "science communicators" who assists museum visitors. [Source: Ryotaro Maeda, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 4, 2012]
“Each of the three seismometers has a different orientation: east-west, north-south or up-down. Vibrations cause a magnet to sway from side to side or bounce on a spring. The magnets' motion alters electrical signals sent out by the devices. Input from stomping children limits the usefulness of data from this set of devices, but a real working seismometer is buried nearby at a depth of about 3,000 meters, Hoshiba said. "If you want to see the real data from the vibration, we have to put the seismometer that deep," she said. Such a great depth is necessary partly to reach solid rock at the bottom of the sedimentary basin on which Tokyo was built, and partly to escape the "noise" from cars and subway trains.
“A large map on the wall is covered with lights indicating data from other seismometers around the nation. Hoshiba said that one buried at the "very shallow" depth of 100 meters on the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture sometimes detects the pounding of rough winter waves on the Sea of Japan. Science communicators also conduct simple experiments. Hoshiba said that soil liquefaction during an earthquake can cause buried items--such as sewer pipes--to rise to the surface. To demonstrate, she produced a clear plastic bottle full of water, with beads buried in sand at the bottom. When she tapped the bottle, simulating the vibrations of an earthquake, the beads popped out of the sand.” Location: 2-3-6 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, +81-3-3570-9151; Admission: 600 yen for adults, 200 yen for those 18 and younger. Hours Open: 10:00 a.m.-5:00pm Closed: Tue., December 28-January 1 and during facility maintenance. Getting There: 4-minute walk from Telecom Center Station on Yurikamome Line. Website: miraikan.jst.go
Space Museum TeNQ
Space Museum TeNQ (at Tokyo Dome, Suidobashi Station on the Sobu and Mita lines) is a relatively new technology and space museum. According to Time Out: “Drive a robot or admire the starry sky through projection mapping at this new space museum opening inside the Tokyo Dome City complex. TeNQ aims to make space fun (as if it already isn't) with displays ranging from the latest scientific developments to classics of sci-fi culture, in addition to the cool 'Theater Sora', an 11m-wide hole in the floor that allows visitors to view Earth from above (and in super-high definition, we should add) . This one will surely be worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. [Source: Tokyo Time Out, July 8, 2014]
Takashi Ito wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Below the visitors swirl heavenly bodies and other spectacular images of space, projected on a circular screen measuring 11 meters in diameter. The screen shows breathtaking views such as of the starry night sky in Hawaii and beautiful computer-generated images of the solar system and the milky way. Photos of Earth shot from the International Space Station make our planet appear glittering like a blue gem floating in the universe. The approximately 10-minute movie is one of the highlights at TeNQ, a space museum that opened in July inside the Tokyo Dome City entertainment complex in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. It is shown at Theater SORA inside the museum. [Source: Takashi Ito, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 15, 2014]
“Various meanings can be discerned within the museum’s name. For example, the Japanese word “ten” means the heavens as well as an exhibition. The letter “Q” comes from the English word “Quest” as well as from the similarly pronounced kanji “kyu,” which has a meaning of exploration or study. As the name suggests, visitors can learn about the latest findings about space through the museum’s exhibitions.
“Another highlight of the museum is the Science corner right next to Theater SORA. Here, scientific data and information, such as the characteristics of the solar system and the latest results from space exploration, are comprehensively explained to visitors using displays and panels. One such example is reports from probes exploring planets and satellites in the solar system. More than 170 probes have been launched from Earth, and they are observing more than 70 heavenly bodies and sending data back to Earth. The exhibits introduce these space explorers, both old and new, and visitors can view the latest images of the surface of Mars, transmitted by U.S. spacecraft Mars Odyssey, which is orbiting the Red Planet.
“There is also an achievement report from the Japanese space probe Hayabusa, the world’s first probe vehicle to bring rock samples from an asteroid back to the Earth. Visitors can learn what the particles unraveled about the mysterious asteroid, called Itokawa, and how it was formed, for example. Through these findings, it is now believed that a bigger asteroid was destroyed and some of its debris came together again to form Itokawa.
“The displays in this section were all produced by The University Museum, The University of Tokyo. “To continue work with planetary probes, it is important that many people understand their significance,” said Hideaki Miyamoto, an associate professor at the university museum. “I hope visitors can truly experience science through the exhibits.” A glass-walled research room in the corner is brightly lit, drawing visitors’ attention. The Research Center, the university museum’s satellite office at TeNQ, is a full-scale research lab complete with a meteorite analyzer. Specialists in planetary science, including Miyamoto, are stationed at the center, where they analyze data from space probes and discuss the next space explorations, all seen by visitors outside the room.”
Location: TeNQ is on the 6th floor of Yellow Building in Tokyo Dome City near Suidobashi Station Address: Yellow Bldg. 6F, Tokyo Dome City, 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Tel: 03 5800 9999. Hours Open: 11:00am-9:00pm (Sat-Sun and holidays from 10:00am). Admission: Adults ¥1,800, students ¥1,500, children from age four and seniors 65 and over ¥1,200. Getting There: Transport Suidobashi Station (Sobu, Mita lines) ; Korakuen Station (Marunouchi, Namboku lines), exit 2. Websites: tokyo-dome.co.jp/tenq Tickets should be purchased in advance through the museum’s website
Shinagawa City Disaster Prevention Center (Shinagawa City) has an in house theater, where you can experience an earthquake via shaking seats and a 15-minute 3-D film of debris falling around you. The theater was established as instructional tool for school children but visitors are welcome. Twenty sets of English headphones are available. . Website: Shinagawa City Disaster Prevention site city.shinagawa.tokyo.jp
TEPCO Museum Earthquake Museum (Kita Ward, near the Nishigahara Station on the Naboku subway line) is a three story museum with a special room where visitors can experience the shaking of an earthquake measuring up to 6.9 on the Richter scale, the intensity of the Kobe earthquake in 1995.
There is also a smoke room, where visitors are taught to squat down and exit to avoid inhaling the artificial smoke. Visitors also get a chance to extinguish a real fire with a fire extinguisher and told how to avoid being hit on the head by falling furniture. There are also exhibition rooms where people can watch videos of major Japanese earthquakes and view a world map that shows major earthquake zones. Website: Tokyo Essentials tokyoessentials.com
Honjo Life Safety Learning Center (Sumida Ward) simulates an earthquake and fire in a 3-D theater. There is also a room that simulates a storm with wind sped of 30 meters per second. Also known as the Tokyo Fire Department’s Life Safety Learning Center, it has free admission but reservations required. Website: tfd.metro.tokyo.lg.jp
Ryotaro Maeda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Life Safety Learning Center tours are given only in Japanese, but they begin with a film dramatizing the need for disaster preparedness, with English subtitles available. The film is of surprisingly high quality, and is new enough to include views of Tokyo SkyTree standing intact among the ruins of a near-future earthquake-devastated Tokyo.English subtitles are also available on a video explaining what to do when an earthquake hits. [Source: Ryotaro Maeda, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 4, 2012]
“Activities on the tour include learning to use a fire extinguisher and navigating through a maze of dimly lit corridors filled with artificial smoke. The highlight is sitting in a mock-up of a typical household kitchen inside an earthquake-simulation machine. When the room begins to shake, get under the table. The jolts are alarmingly powerful.”
Polar Science Museum
The National Institute of Polar Research Polar Science Museum (JR Chuo Line, Tachikawa Station) .provides information on historical as well as current state-of-the-art research activities and results in an easy-to-understand forum. Here, visitors can touch and experience objects from the present day to 4.6 billion years ago.
The Aurora Theater is a dome-shaped miniature omni-theater that shows images of the aurora recorded in the Antarctic and Arctic projected on a planetarium style screen four meters in diameter. The images are produced from actual recorded data from our data. Samples of Antarctic Ice collected from the vicinity of the Syowa station are on display. Visitors can touch the actual ice, within which ancient air remains captured.
The Meteor exhibits include a partial collection of meteors from Antarctic. The collection includes remarkable meteorites from the Moon and Mars. Dagik Earth is a visualization of the Earth created with geoscience data. At this exhibit, visitors can rotate the Earth’s image by themselves using a trackball in order to see the ozone layer hole and other changing Earth features.
At the 3D Aurora visitors can see and feel the Aurora with the head-mount at this exhibit, visitors can see and experience an aurora in three dimensions using a head-mounted virtual reality display device. The Plar Science Museum is the first to offer this attraction as a permanent exhibit.
The Program of the Antarctic Syowa MST/IS Radar System (PANSY), which consists of 1045 atmospheric radar antennas installed at Japan’s Syowa Station in the Antarctic, provides a unique tool for researchers investigating the Earth’s troposphere and stratosphere layers. Here, visitors can see one of those antennas on display.
At the Moss pillars exhibit, visitors can view a small moss pillar, which is composed various kinds of moss, algae, and bacteria. At the penguins prey monitoring exhibit tou can see how scientists have used data logger technology to record how penguins capture their prey. Visitors can enjoy a movie explaining this state-of-the-art wild animal activity research project. Syowa Station Live cam
Among the other displays is a monitor of showing a view of the Antarctic environment around Syowa station. The view is updated at one-minute intervals via satellite. Visitors can climb aboard one of the three Type-KD60 Snow Vehicles that travelled to the South Pole in 1968. The Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers certified these vehicles as Mechanical Engineering Heritage No. 65 in 2014. Bronze Statues of Shakhalin Huskies, which have been relocated from Tokyo Tower, are monuments created in honor of 15 Sakhalin Huskies that served in the Antarctic.
Location: 10-3, Midori-cho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo 190-8518, Japan, Tel: +81-42-512-0647, Fax: +81-42-528-3174. Hours Open: 10:00am-5:00pm (no entry after 16:30) Closed Sunday, Monday, National holidays, New Year’s (12/28 – 1/4). Admission Free. Getting There: From JR Tachikawa station to NIPR: By Rail: Take Tama Monorail for Kamikitadai and get off at Takamatsu. (10 minutes walk from the station). By Bus: Take Tachikawa Bus #16, #16-2, #16-3 and get off at Tachikawa Gakujutsu Plaza.
Museum of Maritime Science
The Museum of Maritime Science (on Tokyo Bay in Odaiba, subway Yurikamome Line, Fune-no-Kagakukan Station) is housed in a six-story building shaped like a full-sized ocean liner and is focused mainly on ocean-going vessels. The museum has five main areas, and provides information about ocean development, sea exploration, the history and technology of ships, ship steering, fishing boats and ports, marine transport, marine leisure activities, and Japanese ships. Visitors can simulate the experience of steering a ship using a radio-controlled ship and watch a film, “The Ocean, Ships and People”, on a two-story screen set in the basement of the Marine Theater. The library has a collection maritime-related books. The observation area has panoramic views of Tokyo Bay.
The grounds of the museum are home to monuments and vessels related to important milestones of Japanese maritime history. Most of the information is in Japanese. The Soya, a ship moored off the grounds, was constructed in 1938 and was used as a cargo icebreaker and served as Japan’s first Antarctic observation ship. The Soya was called a miracle ship because it did not sink despite repeated torpedo attacks during World War II. There is also a submarine, the main battery of the battleship Mutsu and a very interesting superconducting electromagnetic propulsion system that was built as a world first for the Yamato 1, an experimental craft from the early 1990s. You can also check out the Tankai research submarine There are canine mannequins of two dogs Taro and Jiro that pulled sleds for a research team in the Antarctic. These dogs were from harsh Sakhalin Island (now part of Russia) and were well adapted to cold. They dogs miraculously survived after they were abandoned for a long time at Showa Station in the Antarctic. Their story was later adapted for a popular movie. Location: museum located in Higashiyashio, Shinagawa, Tokyo on Odaiba, Address: museum located in Higashiyashio, Shinagawa, Tokyo on Odaiba, 3 Chome-1 Higashiyashio, Shinagawa City, Tokyo 135-0092. Tel: 03-5500-1111 Hours Open: 10:00am to 5:00pm.
Image Sources: 1) Edo-Tokyo Museum 2) 3) 4) Tokyo National Musuem 5) 16) Ray Kinnane 6) 7) Ghibli Museum 8) Tepco Musuem 9) National Science Musuem 10 Sumo Museum 11) 12) 13) 14) 15) Twin isles 17) Adachi Musuem
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020