National Museum of Science and Nature – Ueno

The National Museum of Science and Nature is a surprisingly fascinating place with some stunning exhibits.

The interior is beautiful and there are some incredible specimens (human, animal, and insect). It’s also the resting place of dear Hachiko and is close to many other interesting museums and galleries.

museum of science and nature Ueno Tokyo Japan travel dinosaurs exhibits Chikyukan Nihonkan JaPlanning


A brief history of the museum

The museum first opened in 1871 and over it’s 142 year history has had several names including:

  • The Ministry of Education Museum
  • The Tokyo Museum
  • The Tokyo Science Museum and;
  • The National Science Museum of Japan.

Today, as the National Museum of Nature and Science (‘Kokuritsu Kagaku Hakubutsukan’), the museum offers comprehensive exhibitions of natural history and science and technology. This includes insights into the history of the Earth, the Earth’s biosphere, the history of science and technology and the evolution and place of human history within these other spheres.

Thanks to the leadership of Director Yoshihiro Hayashi and his team, the last ten years has seen the museum expand to boast it’s own research institute and team of academic researchers. In particular the museum tries to create exhibitions that pique the fascination and wonder of children for nature and science.

Following renovations in the late 90’s to expand the museum, there is now a lush variety of exhibitions split between the two exhibition buildings – Chikyukan (Global Gallery) and Nihonkan (Japan Gallery). During our visit the two galleries included exhibitions for:

Chikjukan Gallery

  • 1st Floor – Biodiversity
  • 2nd Floor – Progress in Science and Technology
  • 3rd Floor – Animals of the Earth
  • B-1st Floor – Dinosaurs
  • B-2nd Floor – History of Life on Earth
  • B-3rd Floor – The Natural World

Nihonkan Gallery

  • 1st Floor (Hall and South) – Techniques in Observing Nature
  • 2nd Floor (South) – Organisms of the Japanese Islands
  • 3rd Floor (South) – Nature of the Japanese Islands
  • 2nd Floor (North) – Japanese People and Nature
  • 3rd Floor (North) – History of the Japanese Islands

The brochure that I picked up on entering the museum has a quote that reads:

“The exhibit encourages us to think about what we can do to protect our home planet, with the goal of working towards a future based on the harmonious balance of the Earth’s ecosystem.”

How cool? So sad we couldn’t read any of the exhibit blurbs or info.

Our visit: a spend-thrift’s dream

At this point in our holiday, with only two days left in Japan (sob!), our main consideration when choosing activities was that it was cheap.

So at 600 Yen for entry the Science and Nature museum was a steal. It was a five minute walk from our hotel and was full of weird and wonderful things.

I’m sure most readers have visited a museum before and know, essentially, what it’s like. So I’m going to let the photos do most of the talking with a little bit of info, here and there, relevant to the most interesting specimens.

In photographs: The Museum of Science and Nature

Butterflies Museum of Nature and Science Tokyo Ueno Chikjukan gallery Japan JaPlanning travel

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

Biodiversity Museum of Nature and Science birth of christ ancient tree Tokyo Ueno Japan JaPlanning travel

-A tree that was alive at the birth of Christ-

I really wish I’d asked Monique to stand in the photograph above so that the picture would give some idea of scale. This tree segment was massive – the hole in the centre was at my head height. The time line that runs across it showed that the tree would’ve been in it’s infancy when Christ was born. Stunning.

telescope 19th century tokyo ueno museum science and nature Chikjukan gallery 2F

Progress in Science and Technology.
-A 19th C telescope-

star chart progress in science and technology museum science and nature tokyo ueno chikjukan 2F

Progress in Science and Technology.
-A star chart-

When I first saw the globe in the photo above, from a distance, I thought it was regular globe. On closer inspection I realised it was a star chart! I’d never seen a star chart globe before and was fascinated with it.

Animals of the Earth chikjukan gallery Tokyo Ueno 3F museum of science and nature JaPlanning

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
Animals of the Earth.
-A stuffed bear-

museum of scienc and nature chikjukan gallery ueno tokyo JaPlanning travel 1BF

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
-An artists impression of a prehistoric mammal-

Museum of nature and science chikjukan gallery dinosaur JaPlanning Ueno Tokyo Japan travel

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
-A model of a prehistoric reptile-

Museum of nature and science Ueno Tokyo Chikjukan gallery 2BF JaPlanning crustacean fossil

History of Life on Earth.
-An exhibit of crustacean fossils-

Again, I wish Monique was in the frame above to show scale. Some of these specimens are half as tall and twice as wide as me!

Museum of nature and science Nihonkan Gallery Ueno Tokyo Japan JaPlanning ocean creautres 2nd floor south

Organisms of the Japanese Islands
-An exhibit of ocean creatures from Japan-

museum of nature and science Nihonkan gallery Ueno Tokyo Japan JaPlanning octopus sea creatures travel

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
Organisms of the Japanese Islands.
-An octopus-

The preserved octopus was popular with everyone who visited the museum and Monique and I spent ages looking at it. It was creepy and fascinating and I was wondering exactly how taxidermy is performed on an octopus? Seems like a slippery, messy, frustrating job!

ōsuzumebachi giant japanese hornet museum of science and nature ueno tokyo Nihonkan 2F south JaPlanning travel

[Mnq Nsln Photograffiti]
Organisms of the Japanese Islands.
-The ōsuzumebachi: Giant Japanese Hornet-

I’m glad that I saw the osuzumebachi as a specimen and not live – it’s a hornet as big as your thumb (or bigger) and it’s sting can kill a man. One of the osuzumebachi’s favourite past times is decimating bee colonies and eating their young. Grim.

Museum of nature and science Nihonkan gallery Ueno Tokyo Japan JaPlanning 2F south travel mouse

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
Organisms of the Japanese Islands.
-The mouse ‘human-centipede’-

Have you seen the movie ‘The Human Centipede’? If so you might realise why the exhibit above seemed a little creepy at first.

Museum of nature and science Nihonkan gallery Japanese people Tokyo Ueno Japan travel JaPlanning

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
Japanese People and Nature.
-A model of a prehistoric Japanese male-

I loved the fact that this model and his female and child companions were nude. I just know here in Perth that they would’ve been dressed in loincloths or something. I love the Japanese commitment to realism and the recognition that the naked human body is not shameful.

Museum of nature and science Japan seismic activity map graph Tokyo Ueno JaPlanning Japan travel

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
History of the Japanese Islands.
-A seismic graph of Japan-

This map represented the seismic activity around Japan. Pretty scary right? That night, for the second time, our 12th floor hotel room noticeably wobbled (the curtains were moving and there was a feeling of suddenly being on the ocean). I was more than a little freaked out!

Star Gazing at the Museum

The museum also offers Astronomical Observation aka: star gazing! You can visit the museum on the third Friday of each month to gaze (hopefully in wonder) at the heavens.

Between April and August the night kicks off at 7.30pm. And from September through to March star gazing starts at 6.30pm. The sessions last for 2 hours.

Pretty awesome right? We thought so too.

If you enjoy a day out that’s cheap, stimulates the mind and is visually stunning then make sure to visit the National Museum of Science and Nature in Ueno and, maybe, drop in on a few of the other interesting places close by.

Next post: Shibuya: the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.

Until next time,

Kally & Mon.

Visiting the Museum of Nature and Science

The Museum is located in the north-east corner of Ueno Park. The following maps show it’s location relative to various train lines and to other attractions at the park:

Museum of Nature and Science train station transport location Ueno Tokyo Japan JaPlanning travel

Museum relative to transport

Ueno Park Museum of Nature and Science location map travel Japan Tokyo JaPlanning

The museum’s location relative to other attractions in Ueno Park.

Arriving by train

The museum can be accessed from the Yamanote line, the Ginza line, the Hibiya line and the Keisei Line. Walking times from each are:

  • A five minute walk from JR Ueno Station – Park Exit (Yamanote)
  • A ten minute walk from Tokyo Metro Ginza Line/Hibiya Line – Ueno Station
  • A ten minute walk from Keisei Line – Keisei Ueno Station

Please note there are no facilities to park cars or bicycles.

Entry to the museum is 600 JPY.
Groups of 20 or more can enter for 300 JPY.
Visitors who are in highschool, aged 65 and over or disabled (plus carer) can enter for free.


  1. National Museum of Science and Nature website
  2. Wikipedia

Image Credits:

[Feature Image Credit: Monique Nielsen]

[Image Credit (1,11,12): National Museum of Science and Nature]

[Image Credit (2-10): Monique Nielsen]

What’s your best recommendation for a good day out in Japan on the cheap?

3 thoughts on “National Museum of Science and Nature – Ueno

  1. Pingback: Hachiko – the loyal Akita dog | JaPlanning

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  3. Pingback: Tips for visiting Japan – Part IV – Tokyo | JaPlanning

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