When you think about Japan, what comes to mind? Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, the temples of Kyoto, the ski slopes of Nagano, the bright lights of Tokyo? How about a dinosaur museum? That’s right, the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, located in Nagaoyama Park in Katsuyama City is about 10 minutes by car from the Echizen Railway Station. It is considered to be one of the three largest dinosaur museums in the world along with the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Canada and the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in China. The museum is an active international center of research on dinosaurs with a team of Japanese and foreign specialists in residence.
More dinosaurs have been unearthed in the Katsuyama area of Fukui, where the museum is located, than anywhere else in Japan. Excavations which began in 1989 have yielded such fossils as the Fukuiraptor, the Fukuisaurus and Fukuititan. As a matter of fact, dinosaurs are just about everywhere in town, on the traffic island outside Katsuyama Station and even on manhole covers.
The museum officially opened on July 14, 2000 and consists of four major departments: the exhibit, the educational, the service and the research departments. Its 320,000 sq ft of display space features over 30 complete dinosaur skeletons, plus many partials and other fossils, minerals, rocks and related exhibits. The building also houses a restaurant, a gift shop, a library and a special exhibit hall.
A long escalator takes visitors to the lower level where they can view Dino Street, a hallway displaying fossils of some of the earliest known life forms on earth. A bone bed is situated at the end of the hallway and is a replica of an actual site in Wyoming.
The main exhibition hall located on the floor above, is the museum’s primary exhibition space and consists of various dinosaur fossils. Dioramas, including some with robotic dinosaurs, provide visitors with a conceptual look at the dinosaurs’ habitats.
The second floor contains exhibits primarily focused on earth sciences, including plate tectonics, rock formation and precious gems.
The third floor displays the history of life, showing a timeline from the formation of the earth up to present time.
There is a Dino Lab, with actual fossils on display, which visitors are permitted to handle. Additionally, there is a fossil preparation room where visitors can watch fossils being cleaned and preserved.
Outside, you can find replicas of dinosaurs and their fossils throughout the park grounds including some cartoonish ones that offer excellent photo opportunities.
The museum is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission is ¥720 for adults, ¥410 for high school/ college students and ¥260 for primary/ secondary school students.
Address: 51-11 Terao, Muroko, Katsuyama, Fukui 911-8601, Japan
Web Page: http://www.dinosaur.pref.fukui.jp/en/