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Science picks

National Museum of Nature and Science - Museum: Ueno
[Open 9am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
This is an outstanding natural history museum, with beautiful, curiosity-inspiring exhibits exploring the animal and plant kingdoms and the prehistoric world. It's also a real bargain - general admission to the vast permanent exhibition areas is...
Hara Model Railway Museum - Museum: Yokohama Sta.
[Open 11am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed Tuesdays.]
Two gigantic room-size layouts are the main draw at this impressive model-railway attraction. The larger diorama is European in character, with urban streets, town squares and outdoor restaurants, as well as a couple of mountain resorts connected...
Railway Museum - Museum: Omiya
[Open 10am-6pm (enter by 5:30pm). Closed Tuesdays.]
Train enthusiasts shouldn't miss this impressive, expensively produced railway-history museum located about thirty minutes north of Shinjuku in Saitama Prefecture. The showpiece here is a collection of thirty-five real train cars and full-size...

Natural science

Abiko City Museum of Birds - Museum: Chiba
[Open 9:30am-4:30pm. Closed Mondays.]
Located on the north shore of Teganuma Lake, around 45 minutes from central Tokyo, the museum focuses on the avian wildlife of the lake as well as the world of birds in general. After a visit to the museum you can stroll along the lakeshore trail...
Food and Agriculture Museum - Museum: Setagaya-ku
[Open May-Nov 10am-5pm; Dec-Apr 10am-4pm (last entry 30 min. before closing). Closed Mondays.]
If you're interested in taxidermied roosters, cactus plants, sake paraphernalia, ancient farm tools, modern architecture or lemurs, then this quirky little museum has something for you. Run by Tokyo University of Agriculture, the Food and...
Intermediatheque - Museum: Marunouchi
[Open 11am-6pm (Thu, Fri 8pm; entry until 30 minutes before closing). Closed Mondays.]
The Marunouchi district is teeming with smart new shopping-dining-office complexes, but Kitte ("postage stamp"), brought to you by the Japanese Postal Service, is the only one with its own natural-history museum. Or is it a contemporary art gallery?...
Meguro Parasitological Museum - Museum: Meguro
[Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
Forget the usual superlatives for Tokyo - the highest concentration of pachinko balls in the world, the greatest number of geographically challenged taxi drivers anywhere, etc. - what really makes me want to punch the air in civic pride is knowing...
Planetarium Manten - Planetarium: Ikebukuro
[Open 11am-8pm daily.]
The planetarium was completely renovated in July 2011 and equipped with the latest computer graphics and high-quality audio systems. There are usually several shows on any given day, taking place in Planetarium A, Planetarium B and the very relaxed...
Shibuya Fureai Botanical Centre - Park/garden: Shibuya
[Open 1-6pm. Closed Mondays.]
A mini-botanical garden close to Shibuya Station, the compact greenhouse here is crowded with more than 200 kinds of tropical plants as well as a few tanks full of fish and bugs. The facility runs weekly gardening classes (in Japanese) and holds...
Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome - Park/garden: Shin-Kiba
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Mondays.]
More than 1000 varieties of tropical and subtropical plants grow inside this 1500-square-meter dome-shaped greenhouse located in a park next to Tokyo Bay. Some highlights include giant water lilies, jade vines, Chinese banyan trees, flowering...

Technology

ICC (Inter Communication Center) - Attraction: Hatsudai
[Open noon-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
ICC explores the interface between electronic technology and the arts with varying degrees of success. Some of the installations here seem more like cool toys than groundbreaking art, but there's always some fun stuff to look at and play with.
Metro Museum - Museum: Edogawa-ku
[Open 10am-5pm. Closed Mondays.]
Recently refurbished, the Metro Museum focuses on the Tokyo subway system, with several hands-on driving simulators, a big model train layout (with shows four times a day), and exhibits of subway cars through the ages, tunneling equipment and...
Miraikan - Museum: Aomi
[Open 10am-5pm (enter by 4:30). Closed Tuesdays.]
There is more than enough to keep you (or any children you happen to bring along) busy for a whole day in this beautifully housed and expertly presented museum. The personal cinemas in the library section alone have more than 600 science videos....
Mitsubishi Minato Mirai Industrial Museum - Museum: Yokohama Minato-mirai
[Open 10am-5pm (enter by 4:30pm). Closed Mondays.]
Fans of rockets, ships and big machinery in general will find a lot to see in this two-story technology museum run by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Exhibits focus in particular on the realms of aerospace, deep-sea exploration and shipping. There's...
Panasonic Center - Showroom: Ariake
[Open 10am-6pm (last entry 5pm). Closed Mondays.]
The RiSuPia portion of the Panasonic Center is one of the best science museums we've seen in Tokyo, with free admission for visitors under 18. (It's Y500 for adults.) Almost all the exhibits are set up as hands-on activities and interactive games,...
Science Museum - Museum: Takebashi
[Open 9:30am-4:50pm (enter by 4pm). Closed Wednesdays.]
Aimed primarily at younger visitors, the focus here is on basic science and technology, with lots of hands-on exhibits, although many of them look like they were put together a few decades ago. Driving simulators in the Waku Eco Motor Land section...
Sony ExploraScience - Museum: Daiba
[Open 11am-7pm (enter by 6:30pm) daily.]
Sony's contribution to the cause of popular-science education offers a number of hands-on exhibits focusing on light, sound and sensory perception. There's also a small planetarium (with a show in Japanese), and of course a showroom displaying the...
Water Science Museum - Museum: Ariake
[Open 9:30am-5pm (enter by 4:30). Closed Mondays.]
H2O from A to Z. Everything you ever wanted to know about water. Small and quiet, but it's free and fun enough to justify popping in if you are nearby. As with most museums in Japan, considerable thought and money has obviously gone into the...