National Museum of Nature and Science: Ueno
National Museum of Nature and Science
03-5777-8600
Ueno / Museum
Open 9am-5pm. Closed Mondays.
General admission Y600; high school and younger free. Separate admission for special exhibitions varies.
Average visit time: 1-2.5 hours
Ueno-koen 7-20.

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 just Y600. For high school students and younger, and adults 65 and older, it's free.

We recommend starting with the Global Gallery, which seems to have all the cool stuff - dinosaurs (two floors of them!), and lots and lots of stuffed animals from around the world. A fascinating exhibit on biodiversity shows variations within families of animals and plants and how they evolved, and the Forest of Discovery allows visitors to explore under leaves and inside nests. The very aromatic herb garden up on the roof makes a relaxing spot for a short break.

The "science" bits of the museum are less extensive than those devoted to nature, but there is a big gallery devoted to man's inventions, with full-scale airplanes, cars and satellites. Next to that is a popular room filled with hands-on experiments that investigate physical phenomena such as magnetism and electricity, light and motion.

Compared to the very modern and stylish Global Gallery, the much older Japan Gallery is less dazzling, atlhough still worth a quick run-through. However the much-touted Theater 360, a spherical theater showing wrap-around movies about nature and space, was dizzying but otherwise underwhelming.

The museum restaurant (upstairs in the Global Gallery) offers a big and interesting-looking menu. There's also a more ordinary (and much noisier) cafe-lounge in the Japan Gallery, and a rooftop snack area with parasols that open automatically when you sit down. Audio guidance to the museum (Y300) is available in English, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin.

See also the photo album on Facebook.