Do you know how the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno is related to one of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks? If you mentioned the dog, Hachiko, you’d be 100% correct! Hachiko’s famous statue might be in Shibuya, his grave in Aoyama Cemetery next to his master, but he was actually stuffed and mounted and placed on display at the museum. You can still see him there today. And of course, the museum is not only about Hachiko, there is a lot there to see!
The National Museum of Nature and Science has some great displays. However, there is one piece of advice which any visitor there needs to know and that is, borrow a headset when you go in. If you don’t get one, it’s highly unlikely you’ll understand anything of what you’ll see there as so little is in English on the displays. This is one museum in Tokyo where practically everything useful is in Japanese.
The museum’s exhibits are divided into two – the Permanent Exhibition and the Special Exhibition. They take up two buildings and five floors. The permanent exhibit has immersive exhibits that explore natural history, science and technology related to Japan as well as the rest of the world. The special exhibits have their own area for which you’ll need to buy an extra ticket.
As for the Permanent Exhibition, many people recommend starting with the Global Gallery, as it has all the interesting stuff - dinosaurs, and lots animals exhibits from around the world. It is an interesting exhibit of biodiversity and shows variations within families of animals and plants and how they evolved through the ages.
The Japan Gallery takes up three floors and covers the history and nature of the Japanese islands, beginning with its splitting from Asia and forming the current archipelago. Displays showcase various species that have lived and died in Japan over history and how the ocean has shaped the country’s geography. It also displays some of the technologies that have been created to observe nature such as telescopes, globes, clocks and seismographs.
In the same building as the Permanent Exhibit is the Theatre 360. The movie changes every month and runs for ten minutes. As it is 360° it can feel like you are you’re floating or flying at high speed at times, so if you suffer from motion sickness be careful! I’ve enjoyed the movies I’ve seen, but I have heard other people who didn’t think they were so great.
As for the special exhibitions, there are four per year, and the cost of admittance can vary depending on what is on display. Past topics include baby dinosaurs, chocolate (which I really enjoyed) and cave paintings from the Ice Age.
Being a museum, it has cafes and restaurants along with a well-stocked souvenir shop. You’ll also find an interesting place to have a break even on the rooftop.
As mentioned at the beginning, there is very little useful English at the National Museum of Nature and Science. I strongly recommend you pay the ¥310 at the entrance and get a headset, else you’ll only be looking at the displays which are written mostly in Japanese. You can see the museum’s website here.
And finally, an apology. When I went to get pictures for this article, I had a small camera problem which prevented me from getting as many pictures as I would have liked. Hopefully I’ll be able to go again soon and rectify this. Until then, I hope you enjoy what is here.
How to get to the National Museum of Nature and Science
The museum is in Ueno park which is very close to Ueno station. All you need to do it take the Yamanote line. From the station, it is roughly a ten-minute walk. Here is a map to help you:
General admission to the Permanent Exhibits is ¥620 but changes for each Special Exhibit.
The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm, except on Fridays and Saturdays when it closes at 8 pm. Last entry is thirty minutes before closing time.
It is closed over the New Year break (from December 28 to January 1) as well as every Monday, but if the Monday is a national holiday it will be open and closed the following day (i.e. Tuesday).
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