Day 2 – Museum Day

Alternative program: Museum Day

Nasty weather in Ueno :-/ Perfect for a museum day!
Nasty weather in Ueno :-/

In the evening I checked the weather report: for some regions, including Kantō, it might snow the next day! I was less than amazed, but Amber said it wouldn’t be that bad. Sure enough, it snowed lightly the next morning. The streets had a light dusting, like powdered sugar, and it was cold and even windier than the day before. While exploring Ueno Park, I had already noticed a few museums. It quickly became clear given the weather: Today was going to be a museum day. In any case, I had an evening appointment and therefore I didn’t want to be out too long. So that was a perfect fit!

So I made my way back to the train station because the two museums that I wanted to visit were right next to it:

  • Tokyo National Museum
  • National Museum of Nature and Science

That would make for a good mix of history and science. There were some interesting art museums in the area as well, but I figured (correctly) that I would be busy enough with those two.

I turned up my collar and braved the icy wind. It was still snowing. I could hardly wait to experience a few sunny days in Kyushu soon. After all, I had hoped to be able to escape the awful weather in Germany….

Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. In five different buildings you get a deep insight into Japanese (art) history, Asian art in general, and Japanese archaeology. You can easily spend a whole day there and still not have seen everything.

I decided to focus on two departments:

The Japanese Gallery

Here you will get an overview of Japanese art from 10,000 BC. BC until the late 19th century. It covers all imaginable areas in 24 exhibition rooms; from ceramics, sculpture, woodcuts, silk painting, and calligraphy. They also have sections on swordsmithing, historical armor, and weaponry in general. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited in many rooms. In any case, I would not have been able to depict the magnificent silk paintings adequately in all their splendor. So you guys and gals should see for yourself if you visit Tokyo. I would highly recommend a visit for anyone interested in Japanese history and art!

You can find a nice summary of the plot of the Mouse Wedding here. The attention to detail in the painting is extraordinary. Fairy tales like this were a popular motif in the Muromachi period in the 16th century.


The Heiseikan houses, the exhibition on Japanese archaeology. Among other things, you can find the oldest polished stone tools in the world here, dating back to the Paleolithic period, around 30,000 BC!

Unfortunately, photos were prohibited almost everywhere here.

After almost four hours (I only wanted to stay for two hours) I was starved and headed for the museum restaurant. I had a very 美味しい meal with soba and tempura, which replenished my energy reserves. Before heading to the next destination, I used the opportunity to buy some omiyage in the museum shop.

Lunch in the National Museum
Lunch in the National Museum

National Museum of Nature and Science

Well-fed and warmed up I strolled to the National Museum of Natural Sciences. I am a huge fan of science museums and was therefore very excited to see what awaited me there. The weather had cleared up, and I spent some time exploring the steam locomotive on display in front of the museum before going in.

Dinosaur collection in the National Museum of Nature and Science
The dinosaur collection in the National Museum of Nature and Science

The museum has a total of seven levels, spread over two buildings. In the new, more modern building, you can find a dinosaur exhibition, and various exhibitions on ecosystems, hazard prevention, and climate change. There were also departments on space travel and technology in general. Many exhibits showed the Japanese achievements in these areas. In addition to the dinosaurs (who doesn’t love dinos!), I found the exhibition about Japanese space exploration and the section on Japanese Nobel Prize winners in the natural sciences particularly exciting. The latter one is located in the basement, together with several exhibits where you can twiddle some knobs yourself. If you can read Japanese…

In the second building, there were exhibitions focusing on ecosystems in Japan. That was highly specific and there were very few translations, so I had to rely on Google Translate a lot. It was still interesting, but I think it might not be quite as attractive for an international audience.


The museum closed at 5 p.m. and I made my way “home”. That evening I had a “date”: my boss had put me in touch with an employee at our Japanese reseller. The guy was keen to meet one of us and I also thought it would be a nice idea. We had agreed to meet at 6:15 p.m. at one of the prominent statues in Ueno station. So I had a bit of time to get ready. I quickly showered, looked for the least dirty clothes, and off I went.

Fusion in an Izakaya

He had booked a private room in an Izakaya: That was a different dining experience than in Takahashi, but just as good. There was… hm… a fun fusion mix: “Japanese interpretations of Western cuisine”, e.g. a kind of potato salad with schnitzel, but also traditional snacks, so many different ones that I’ve already forgotten most by now. But it was incredibly delicious. Whatever we ordered, the waitress brought it immediately. Spooky, as if she could read our minds.

I had a very nice chat with him and learned a lot about the places I wanted to visit; he had studied in Sendai, and I wanted to go there too. Originally he was from Kyoto, which was also a destination on my tour. It was interesting to hear his view of my home country. He told me he often traveled to Germany, always for work, so he never had much time to explore. Unfortunately, he had never made it to Tübingen. Maybe the next time he is in the Stuttgart area I can show him some nice places in my home town. Though I doubt the food will be as good.

We left at around 9 p.m. He had to work the next day and I was pretty exhausted. Initially, I had planned to explore Tokyo nightlife, but I wasn’t dressed very nicely and was also way too tired. For the next day, I had planned a long program, so I went straight to bed.