Located in Ibaraki’s south west, Bando is a relatively small city with a population of around 56 thousand people. It is here you will find Ibaraki Nature Museum. Often called the museum park, it sits on 56 hectares of land encompassing thickets and a swamp where you can see some of the plants and animals you learned about inside the museum in their natural habitat. We were sad to only have a limited amount of time to explore the museum and surrounding area, as you could easily spend the whole day there. With new exhibits every few months, Ibaraki Nature Museum is a great place to visit for people of all ages and interests.
Many exciting things will be happening in the museum this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its opening. Keep an eye out for the 20th anniversary exhibit that will pop up some time later this year. Until June 15, you can check out the amazing African exhibit ‘Messages from the Savanna – African Wildlife and its Conservation’. Last summer, two curators visited Zambia to do research for the exhibit – they took photos and collected many of the plant specimens that are on display. The purpose of the exhibit is to show the diversity of the savanna – although many people picture sweeping plains dotted with acacia and baobab trees where lions, elephants and rhinoceroses roam, savannas also include forests, mountains, and lakes, and a huge number of animal and plant varieties. Although it claims that it barely scratches the surface of the African wilderness, you will certainly leave knowing much more about it than when you entered.
The entrance to the exhibit is a model of a house in Zambia, made based on photos taken by the curators during their visit. Upon stepping through the doorway you will be greeted with an incredible sight – around one hundred stuffed animals make up a huge display in the centre of the room, most of them some variety of antelope. Some of these specimens belong to Ibaraki Nature Museum, but many come from the Yoshimoto Collection held by the National Museum of Nature and Science. You can pick up a list at the door that will help you identify the names of the animals on display.
I could write pages about this exhibit but I don’t want to spoil your chance to discover things for yourself when you visit. Some of the things you can learn about include savanna environments from around the world, the Masai, San, and Bantu peoples of Kenya, Namibia, and Zambia, the national parks of Africa, the plants and animals of various kinds of ecosystems found in Africa, and conservation efforts in Zambia and Kenya. There is a 20 year old baobab tree on display that is still in its juvenile stages despite its age, some live specimens including tarantulas and scorpions, and hundreds of leaf, seed, and flower samples collected by the curators during their 2013 research trip.
The museum also has a number of fantastic permanent exhibits. They all contain interactive features, making them great fun for the young and young at heart. Test your knowledge through quizzes along the way, observe objects falling in a vacuum, adjust the frequency of a sound so see which animals can hear it – these are only a few of the cool activities you’ll find along the way. Learn about space in the Evolving Universe exhibit, take a journey through Earth’s history from its birth to the age of the dinosaurs, learn about life in different ecosystems, experience the motion and mechanics of life that can usually only be seen through a microscope, see how human beings and the environment are interrelated, and discover the varied natural world of the plants and animals of Ibaraki.
When you’ve had your fill of the museum, take a stroll through the beautiful grounds to see Sugao Marsh, a bird sanctuary, a dragonfly pond, an insect sanctuary, a flower meadow, a grasshopper field, and much, much more. Ibaraki Nature Museum is a great day out and worth making multiple visits to.
Ibaraki Nature Museum
Where: 700 Osaki, Bando, Ibaraki
Opening Hours: 9:30am – 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm) Closed Mondays (except when Monday is a national holiday, in which case closed the following Tuesday). Closed over New Years.
Elementary & Junior High: ￥100
Senior High & University: ￥310
*Additional charge for admission during special exhibitions