Natural and Sciency

Trip Start Jul 22, 2006
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Trip End Aug 15, 2010


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Flag of Japan  , Kanto,
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In July, three friends and I met up in Ueno Park to visit the National Museum of Nature and Science.  There are several museums in the park (I'd only ever been to one of the art museums), and I was glad we'd chosen to stay indoors, as the day was rainy.

As natural history museums are wont to do, this one started us off in the age of the dinosaurs, with many skeletons (or replicas) sharing a relatively small space.  Trying to get some pictures, I was foiled at first by the lighting, which had gone unaccountably dim.  It turns out that the museum speeds up the cycle of day and night, so that all the lights (at least in the animal kingdom exhibits) go down at "night".  The cycle lasts about five minutes, I think.

After the dinosaurs, we wandered into a gallery of stuffed and mounted animals, divided by classification, but not before seeing the small intestine of a whale.  Why yes, it's quite long!  As if that weren't weird enough, there was also a camel's hump on display, sans skin; it really is just a lump of fat.

There were so many different creatures on display that we spent quite some time in that section, cracking jokes and marvelling at some of the acid trips that Mother Nature has been on.  Have you seen some of those fish?  In addition to the animals, the plant kingdom is also represented.  A dividing wall of glass bricks has various plants inside it -- pretty and informative!

Next door is the gallery of marine life, with whole schools of fish hanging overhead.  We especially liked the huge sunfish, whose disapproving expression is very comical.  It probably spends its time shouting at young 'uns to get off its coral reef.

The mascot of the museum seems to be a cute cartoon owl, who frequently shows up in the midst of the exhibits, pointing to this or that and providing explanatory text.  Amusingly, its expression changes in accordance to what it's indicating.  When it's pointing at a creature now extinct, it has tears welling up in its eyes.

One room, that I can imagine might frighten a small child when "night" falls, is the large gallery of stuffed mammals and birds.  The quadrupeds are all together behind glass, bears rubbing shoulders with antelopes, camels sneering at wolves, and so on, and the birds share roosting spots along one of the walls.  It's incredible to see such variety in the same space like that, and even so it represents only an infinitely small fraction of the things alive on this planet.

We didn't have time to visit every exhibit, but we went over to the science section, which includes a hands-on science room for the kids.  Plenty of grown-ups were enjoying themselves as well, though, and we had fun shaking hands with ourselves (via a concave mirror) and building arches.

Next, we viewed some of the history of Japan.  I particularly liked seeing the inner workings of a mechanical doll.  Somehow, it was even creepier without its clothes on!  Our last stop was to gently mock the [very realistic] wax figures representing different periods of Japanese history; most of the figures' expressions seemed to say, "Look!  I just discovered hunting!" or "Look what happens when you pound away at rice for an hour!"

If you have time to kill in the Ueno area, or if you're there and get caught in the rain, this is a good museum to spend some time in.  And of course, the gift shop sells cute keychain or cell phone charm versions of most of the animals on display.
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