Covering over 70% of the earth’s surface, our oceans have always been an enigma to us as humans. They make up over 90% of the living space on our planet and have more life in a square inch than there is in a mile on land. Yet, with all we know about the ocean, over 2/3 of it have yet to be explored. Can you imagine what is left to find? From new animal and plant species to ship wrecks and other lost man made objects, there is a lot we have yet to discover!
If that doesn’t give you a feeling of awe and make you feel small in a big world, I’m not sure what will! Over the years, man has done everything from crossing the ocean, to diving below the surface, and into its depths in attempts to understand and ultimately master it. It’s one of my favorite places to explore. It’s amazing to see the attempts we’ve made in order to understand the vast blue wonder that is the sea.
After my first layover adventure to Odaiba(See Destination Layover: Tokyo), I decided I had to come back and explore the rest of the island. There was so much left over for me to see. One of the places that I had seen previously, but didn’t get a chance to go check out, was the Museum of Maritime Science or Fune-no-kagakukan.
The museum is huge! You definitely won’t miss it. The main building is designed to look like British ocean liner Queen Elizibeth II, so it stands out considerably! The primary focus of the museum is Japanese Maritime history as well as advancements made in ocean exploration. Unfortunately, the main building is currently closed for renovations, but don’t let that deter you from coming. There are many exibits surrounding the main structure that are still open. You can explore everything from diving bells, miniature submarines, one of the main guns from the battleship Mutsu, to a deep-sea diving suit, experimental boats and even a complete ocean floor house/lab.
There is also the mini-exhibit building that houses static displays and a large number of beautifully detailed models. The oldest wooden lighthouse in Japan, the Anorisaki Lighthouse, calls the museum home as well.
The museum centerpieces would have to be the, “Soya” and the “Yotei-Maru”. The Soya was the first Japanese ship to take part in an Antarctic research expedition. Built in 1938 as an ice-strengthened cargo ship for the Russians, it was originally named, “Volochaevets”. The ship was never handed over and instead entered service with the Tatsunan Kisen company being renamed, “Chiryo Maru”. After the start of World War II, it wasn`t long after that it was requisitioned by the Imperial Japanese Navy and entered the war as an auxiliary ammunition and survey vessel.
In 1956, the Soya made it’s first trip to the South Pole. During her second voyage, in 1958, she made headlines worldwide when she rescued personnel stranded at the Showa research station. The evacuation did not extend to the station’s dogs, and 15 Karafuto-Ken huskies were abandoned to fend for themselves on the ice. The following spring the ship returned to find two dogs, named Taro and Jiro, still alive. They even made two movies about the fortitude of Taro and Jiro.
In 1979, the Soya was retired and brought to its final port, permanently moored at the Museum of Maritime Science. Once you get on board, you can see the incredibly cramped conditions in which the men lived for that long voyage to the Antarctic and back again. There is the medical officer`s dispensary, the galley, the living quarters for men and dogs, bridge and helicopter flight deck. The engine room can even be viewed through a hole cut through the floor of the crew`s mess. You can even get a general idea of what the crew wore on the journey and at the South Pole. It`s quite incredible to think what people were able to accomplish all those years ago without the benefits of modern technology.
The Yotei-maru had quite a different history. Entering service in 1965, the Yotei-maru served as a railway ferry to cross between Aomori, Honshu and Hakodate, Hokkaido. Named after Mt. Yotei on Hokkaido, the vessel carried nearly 12 million passengers and traveled a total of 4 million nautical miles during its 23 years of service. The opening of the Seikan (Aomori-Hakodate) tunnel in March 1988 effectively ended the need for the Yotei-maru to travel it’s route. In 1992, the Japanese government commissioned it as their floating pavilion during the “Ship and Sea Expo” being held in Genoa, Italy. Since then, the vessel was preserved as a floating exhibit at the Museum of Maritime Science, where it has several displays highlighting it’s working days, as well as a working recreation of the Aomori Station called “Seikan World”.
The Museum of Maritime Science is a one of the many things to do on Odaiba. The ships are moored next to a boardwalk that has quite a few benches on it, so you could sit and enjoy the Odaiba waterfront and the views of Tokyo Bay. Even with the main building closed for renovations, it’s a great way to spend the afternoon. Palette Town, the Daikanransha, and a few other shopping centers on Odaiba are within close proximity as well.
Here are a few tips when visiting the Museum for Maritime Science.
1. You can access the museum’s web page here. It’s pretty outdated, since the main building is closed. But it offers a map and a few bits of information on the exhibits. Most of the exhibits are signed in Japanese, but there are signs in limited English on a lot of them
2. The best way to visit the museum is by taking the Yurikamome monorail to the Fune-no-kagakukan station for around 400 yen. The museum is hard to miss and is easily seen from the station. You can also travel by car and utilize the parking area, but it fills up quickly. Especially during the summer months and holidays. A map of the area is included below.
3. The museum is opened from 10am to 5pm everyday, except for Monday. It is closed on Mondays and over the New Year. Right now, since the main building is closed, there is no cost to see the exhibits. There is a donation box to help with the maintenance and upkeep at the entrance to the ships.
4. Most of all, have fun and take lots of pictures! There is tons of stuff to do on Odaiba, and the Museum of Maritime Science is a great way to kick off your day!