Science Museum in Kitanomaru Park
Conveniently located next to the Imperial Palace, this museum is full of hands on activities. Brilliant for a rainy day! Links to their official website are at the bottom of the page.
We love, love, love this museum as a family. It consists of five floors, with sections on each floor introducing different scientific concepts using a real-life model. It is quite possible (and we have done this before) to spend the entire day there looking and playing with all the science.
Some useful info before I tell you all about our favourite sections of the museum:
There is a cafeteria inside the museum on the 4th floor which serves simple lunches (think noodles and curry) as well as selling snack, drink and ice cream. Covid has meant that the menu is limited to a few items and you are only allowed to eat in the cafeteria area and for those like us, who are not keen on spicy curry, they serve a beef stew with rice called "Hayashi rice.” In the pre-Covid era (such a crazy concept to get one’s head around!) it used to be fine to bring your own food and lunch and they had plenty of seating areas and a few tables to allow people with their own food to have a rest. These have now all been removed to discourage sitting down so please be prepared that you might end up on your feet for hours.
Right! Let’s dive into the fun stuff! These are our top 5 favourites in the museum:
Number 5 - the interactive games on the 2nd floor. A set of three different games presented on very large screens, they allow the kids to experience three completely different ways of interacting with screens. One is set up with movement recognition where the gamer has to stand in a specific spot and “flap" their arms up and down in order to move up and down on the screen. Another is a touch screen panel with a puzzle that needs to be reassembled, and the last is a bicycle that the kids need to cycle forward or backwards in order to move on the screen. This is our favourite activity to do at the very beginning of our visit and we rarely leave the museum without doing it again at the end.
Number 4 - sustainable energy section on the 3rd floor. Although most of this exhibit is still beyond the understanding of Miss 6 and Mr 7, they do have a delightful demonstration of the water cycle where the child needs to rotate a wheel in order to move the water molecules (ahem…. ping pong balls) from the ocean back up into the cloud in order to see them fall back down the mountain, into the river, and through the dam.
Number 3 - construction area on the 4th floor. This section has a giant model crane that the kids can manoeuvre to pick up little balls and deposit them in a target basket. There is also a seismic demonstration showing the difference in the shaking between a building that is seismic-proof and one that is not. It functions as a ride that you can sit on and you can choose which earthquake you wish to experience. A big bonus of this one is that it is one of the few things English-friendly as you can choose English on the touch screen menu. And finally, you can try to build an arch bridge or a suspension bridge with the wooden blocks provided. For the Japanese speakers, there is also an interactive quiz game set up on the computers in this room that shows which order certain things (eg. a dam) are built. Having said that - my husband managed to do it with no Japanese just by following the pictures!
At Number 2 - the virtual driving on the 2nd floor. Although this is not a particularly favourite of us as parents - the kids love this one. They refuse to leave the area without having tried all on the different cars and there is even a motorbike. It is set up as a test-driving centre would have to train drivers with a large screen in front of the steering wheel. For those that know Japanese, there is an opportunity to explain and show how hybrid cars work as the central exhibit is all about learning when to switch to the battery and when to use the engine while driving. Lexus has generously placed a real car in there as well and it has been completely stripped to show the engine and pretty lights show which direction the electricity flows at any given moment.
And coming in top at Number 1 - our absolute favourite area has got to be the mechanics section up on the 5th floor. Designed as a giant marble run (with “marbles’ that are roughly half a metre in diameter!) it gives a visual representation to the basic concepts of mechanics. There are levers, and pulleys, and gear boxes that can be pointed out, not to mention that the giant marbles show how the different forces are acting upon them - gravity, potential and kinetic energy are the ones that are easiest to explain using this run. Friction isn’t too clear with this marble run, but there is a separate exhibit on the 3rd floor demonstrating the difference between a low friction and high friction surface. My own personal favourite on this floor is the pendulum swing.
As a parent with two very active kids - I can definitely say that we used this exhibit frequently to get them to burn some energy. They have to actively follow the marble around the room and use their muscles (mechanical energy!) to bring the system into motion. AND there’s plenty more to do in the same room - would you like to see how to easily lift up a real Mini Cooper? Right this way! But be warned - this room is full of bangs and clattering and delighted shrieks of children!
Where to find it:
Tokyo Chiyoda-ku Kitanomarukoen 2-1
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