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2008年9月27日 (土)

国立博物館探訪

毎日新聞の英語版は読売や朝日ではあまりみかけない新鮮でおもしろい記事が多い。この記事もそのひとつだ。(スラチャイ)

Out and About: Exploring the National Museum of Nature and Science

A life-size model of a blue whale measuring 30 meters in length is pictured outside the National Museum of Nature and Science.
A life-size model of a blue whale measuring 30 meters in length is pictured outside the National Museum of Nature and Science.

I often visit Ueno Park to appreciate art, and I look forward to the gigantic blue whale suddenly hoving into view on the way. The full-scale model is installed in the front yard of the National Museum of Nature and Science. The museum's main building, built in 1930, is a stately building of elegant brown bricks and itself an important cultural asset. This is the Japan Pavilion, and the new annex is the Earth Pavilion. I was initially attracted to the stately main building.

When I came here as an art student, the main building stood alone. The exhibits explaining the fundamentals of science were fascinating, and I was almost artistically impressed by the Foucault pendulum hanging from the ceiling four floors above.

The Foucault pendulum still swings slowly on its long cord. The angle of the swing goes gradually out of alignment, representing the daily rotation of the globe. I know this by learning, but the principle still puzzles me. Yet, when I see the pendulum for the first time in years, the floor tiles rouse an inner sensation. The history that penetrates through the floor is what first moves me in old buildings.

Here, the full history of the Japanese islands is exhibited, starting from dinosaurs, fossils of giant ammonites, meteors, flints, midden, and many other relics of the Jomon Period.

A huge tyrannosaurus skeleton is shown at the National Museum of Nature and Science.
A huge tyrannosaurus skeleton is shown at the National Museum of Nature and Science.

Transparent models of the islands are displayed on top of each other, demonstrating the population density of each age with small dolls. I was greatly fascinated by this exhibition, which showed that cumulatively some 500 million people have lived in the Islands since the beginning of time. Imagine, we alone are one-fifth of history!

An extraordinary mummy of a woman buried in the ground in the Edo Period was excavated and exhibited here. The mummy itself was terrific, but the most thrilling part was the video of the CT scan. Also with DNA analysis, the woman was analyzed and shown to have mainly eaten fish, suffered pyorrhea, and so on. It sounds like any woman that died just yesterday.

The ground floor shows celestial globes, terrestrial globes, and telescopes of the Edo Period. The explanation of how the seismograph works was very eloquent. Finally, I took a brief tour in the new Earth Pavilion, but I realized that it was too fantastic for "just one look." I'll have to come back another day.

Next, I'll move on to Shinjuku Sanchome. (By Genpei Akasegawa)

Remarks of accompanying correspondent

The faithful dog Hachiko, known for loyalty to his master, foreground center, is pictured at the National Museum of Nature and Science. Also on display is the famous canine Jiro, top right.
The faithful dog Hachiko, known for loyalty to his master, foreground center, is pictured at the National Museum of Nature and Science. Also on display is the famous canine Jiro, top right.

We walk around two hours a day for this article. The idea is "enjoy, but don't get burned out." Even then, there are so many things to see that we don't have enough time. A tour around the National Museum of Nature and Science (03-5777-8600) usually needs a full day.

An aerial view shows that the Japan Pavilion is in the form of an airplane, with its nose is pointed toward the Ueno Zoo, opposite the JR line. The blue whale sits on the right, with a steam locomotive on the left. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology designed it as "symbol of science and technology."

The exhibition is on three floors. We are welcomed by two stuffed dogs on the 2nd floor. One is Hachiko, the dog that awaited his late master at Shibuya Station in the early Showa era; another is Jiro, the dog that survived a whole winter alone in the Antarctic base. Taro, the brother of Jiro, is exhibited in Hokkaido University.

The Earth Pavilion was built in 1999. It has three floors above and below ground level. The dinosaur fossils, which are most popular among children, are on the B1 floor, while the triceratops, which lies exactly as it was when it was excavated, has a tremendous impact. Admission is 600 yen for both pavilions. They are closed on Mondays. (By Shiro Sakamaki)

(Mainichi Japan) September 26, 2008

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