National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo

‘I actually think this might be better than the Natural History Museum in London’ . . . direct quote from my long suffering partner in crime who I drag around every museum going.

It’s quite good going taking a person who isn’t museum obsessed along with you on a museum visit as it allows you to hear what they think about it from an alternative perspective.  And this museum, was clearly a success . . . but why did he (and I) like it so much.

The place is obviously massive; it’s a national museum, you can lose hours within its lofty halls. In this one you can most certainly get lost because it has a slightly bizarre layout. It covers both Japanese nature and science as well as looking at the rest of the world and there were a few galleries that stood out.Animals of the Earth Gallery 2The ‘Animals of Earth’ gallery has a massive specialist made glass case that houses a large proportion of the world’s mammalian species. It’s quite common to see taxidermy set into ‘realistic’ backdrops, but not here. After all, these animals are from all corners of the globe, they would never stand next to each other in real life, so why would you build them into a ‘realistic’ scene where they are in death – it sends out mixed messages.

Animals of the Earth Gallery 1

Instead they are displayed on plain staging, all staring out towards the outer edges of the case, which is a bit unnerving because they are incredibly skilled examples of taxidermy and look like they could shake to life at any time. There are no labels in the cases instead their images are on interactive screens so you can select an animal that you see in front of you and find out more details.Navigators of History of Earth Gallery 2Then there is my favourite gallery in the museum. Entitled ‘Navigators on History of Earth’ this gallery is a visual spectacle. In the centre stands the almost complete fossilised skeleton of an Allosaurus, which was a personal gift to the museum from a donor called Yukichi Ogawa in 1964 after he found out that the museum had no dinosaur skeleton on display at the time. Around the edge of the gallery are large screens which play an incredibly clever animation showing how the Earth has developed from nothing to now, including animal and human development. It’s hypnotic, there are so many different elements split across a number of screens that the more you watch the more you see. Below the scenes is an object based timeline, so you can basically in a small way experience 13.8 billion years of history through the specimens, interpretation and animation in one space.

In the ‘Biodiversity’ gallery not only can you see the worm infested intestine of a whale (yes it is as gross as it sounds, but apparently they are parasites beneficial to the whale), there is also an incredible diversity wall, with light trails on the floor which show the ‘tree of life’ and how different animals are divided into different groups.

So why was it really good? The displays are recently refreshed, so everything was not only new, but up to date with research. They had also made a point of remounting dinosaur skeletons in line with recent discoveries. The galleries were not only large and impressive, but the small details were considered too. Every room was very different, so there was no risk of being bored by repetition, just exhausted by quantity and quality.

The National Museum of Science and Nature costs 620 yen per adult (less than £5), it’s definitely worth it





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