Kyororo Forest School, Matsunoyama

Kids have lots of fun learning about the local nature

By Rufus Starbuck    - 3 min read

Kyororo is lots of things - museum, craft workshop, educational center and even work of art. It is also masses of fun for kids.

The building was one of the first art installations for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field. It is shaped like a snake and built of materials that will gradually change color over time. It is a very odd shaped building to find out in the middle of the countryside but charming none-the-less.

The sign on the front of the building says Echigo Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science and inside there is enough to keep kids occupied for hours. Some of the first things you come across are boxes with unknown contents - put your hand inside and see if you can work out what is inside. These are right next to the glass tanks with live snakes in so it's a pretty scary experience. There are whole racks of "Matsunoyama interesting boxes" with all sorts of interesting things inside. The kids had a ball going through these to find more and more bizarre things to show each other.

There is a tower with 160 steps up to a look-out platform with views over the forests and rice fields below. A model of the surrounding rice terraces back downstairs has lots of information about the local ecology and buttons to press to light up specific parts. There are displays of live snakes, frogs and fish, along with stuffed birds. 

The craft workshop is another great distraction for the kids. Lots of tree branches and other bits and pieces scavenged from nature outside, with tools and glue. There are racks of examples of what you can make on a shelf nearby, as well as some very clever animals made from local timber.

It is another one of the locations that is supposed to be very different from season to season with winter being particularly impressive as the snow piles up against the thick window and partly buries the metal building, apart from the tower.

On the other side of the car park is Bijinbayashi. It is a beech forest planted after the war. The trees are all of a relatively standard size with lots of space and light between then. It is a really tranquil little forest for a stroll (unless you are there with a gaggle of kids charging around having a great time!)

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Rufus Starbuck

Rufus Starbuck @rufus.starbuck

Hanging out in the mountains of Niigata. Arrived by accident and yet to leave. Seem to spend far too much time eating... 

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