Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1. Museum Review: The National Museum of Nature and Science (Ueno)

The National Museum of Nature and Science is a great museum for anyone with children, or anyone who wants a refresher course in 'Basic Science 101'. There are two buildings, of which the original building has been completely remodeled and re-opened recently. It houses the 'Japan Gallery', and was originally completed in December 1930. Because of its unique Neo-Renaissance style, I found the building as facinating as the museum itself, it is beautiful.
The 'Japan Gallery' consists of three floors: 1st - Techniques in Observing Nature, 2nd - Organisms of the Japanese Islands & Japanese People and Nature, 3rd - History of the Japanese Islands & Nature of the Japanese Islands. All exhibits were well laid out, interesting, and pleasing to the eye. There is also the 'Theater 360', a 360-degree screen covered by 12 pentagon images. Visitors walk through the globe screen, currently showing a short film on dinosaurs and another on what exists inside the earth itself. The wait was too long during my visit, but I plan to come back and check it out in the future.

The new building, or 'Global Gallery', has 6 floors with these exhibit areas: Animals of the Earth, Woodland Exploration, Progress in Science and Technology, Exploration Space, Biodiversity, Dinosaurs, the Evolution of Life, and the Natural World - Universe, Matter, and Physics.

In the 'Animals of the Earth' exhibit, over 100 'stuffed' animals (some died at the Ueno Zoo) fill a huge glass room. Imagine this collection coming alive inside the room together; a buffalo, polar bear, tiger, gorilla,... all standing side by side.

On another floor is a hands-on discovery room for children exploring a variety of scientific principles related to light, sound, force, motion, magnetism,... The kids that I saw there were having a ball.

I really enjoyed the dinosaur and biodiversity exhibits, and I was pleasantly surprised at the fascinating presentation of 'The Evolution of Life', which traces the evolutionary path of plants and animals.
Everything has a one word/line English title, but all other explanations are in Japanese. There are, however, computer monitors everywhere - and they provide English on all subject matter in the museum. There are also PDA audio exhibition guides that can be rented for 300 yen.

7-20 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-8718
TEL 03-3822-0111 (Mon.- Fri.) 03-3822-0114 (Sat., Sun., National Holidays)
Recorded Announcement 03-5777-8600

*Five minute walk from the Ueno Koen Exit of JR Ueno Station.
*10 minute walk from Ueno Station of the Ginza, Hibiya, and Keisei Lines.
*No parking available at the museum. Public and private parking lots can be found around Ueno Park.

The museum is beside the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. It is easy to spot because there is a huge whale statue just outside the entrance.

Opening Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 (last admissions 16:30), every Friday 9:00 - 20:00 (last admission 19:30)
Closed every Monday (Tuesday when a national holiday falls on Monday); Dec. 28 - Jan. 1

Admission Fees:
Individuals (adults and college students) 500 yen
Children and Youth in grades 1-12 Free
Seniors (65 or older) with ID are admitted free of charge to the permanent exhibitions.
Groups (at least 20 adults and college students) 300 yen

Night for Astronomical Observation (temporarily closed for renovation)
Individuals (adults and college students) 300 yen
Children in grades 1-12: Free

Special Exhibitions cost extra.

**Free entry to permanent collection with Grutt Pass 2007 (#1)

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