A rocket decorates the front lawn, one of hundreds of interesting things to be found on the grounds of Tochigi Science Museum.* Wander along paved paths; discover a wind park, water park, ride-on vehicle park, bird forest, water plant garden and play parks. I have visited Tochigi Musuem at least half a dozen times without actually entering the museum.
The first time I visited, we walked around outside for an hour or so, but only saw about half of the grounds. The second time, I came for the Tochigi International Festival; many ethnic food and handicrafts tents were set up, and folk dance and music were showcased on an outdoor stage. Last spring, we had a play date at the museum from 10 until 4 PM on a weekday. Our group of about ten pre-schoolers and their mothers lunched at the no-frills cafeteria in the museum on such fare as udon, curry-rice, inarizushi and ice-cream. A highlight for the kids was riding the miniature train at Norimono Hiroba.
Did you want to know about the inside of the museum? My first time inside the museum was when my son was about two. First, we went swimming in the ball pool and jumping on the step-on piano in the Play World area. Next, we strolled around trying the interactive exhibits. We lingered in front of the robots on the first floor then we sat back in the planetarium for an animated introduction to astronomy.** My husband fell asleep in the reclining seat.
My son is now four. We took a picnic last weekend, just him and I. We arrived around noon, and purchased tickets for the 1:30 planetarium show along with museum entrance tickets from the ticket vending machines. The price came to Y1040. *** I stashed our lunch and heavy jackets in a coin locker just inside the front door, then we went to Play World on the 2nd floor. At 1:30, we watched a animated short film for kids about how earth may have developed. Afterwards, we lunched on the benches in the lobby, then we re-entered the museum by showing our ticket to the ladies at the entrance counter.
My son has so many science-related questions, and I was hoping a visit to the museum could help me answer him. I flagged down a staff member to ask about a question my son had asked me recently about electricity. The staff member kindly listened and answered; unfortunately, I couldn’t understand the answer. Without better Japanese language skills, the value of this museum is greatly diminished.
Although I have entered Tochigi Science Museum with my family at least three times now, I have yet to experience everything. There is a crafts room, picture book library, daily live science shows, flight simulators and Astronomical Observatory. I look forward to checking out these things as a family, as my son matures.
Tochigi Museum is in Nishikawada just off Tochigi Kaido. We drive there now and then on weekends. Museum parking is free and the parking lot is enormous. During the week, my husband uses the family car. I lack the energy required to take the train or bus to Tochigi Museum. By Tobu train, one must get off at Nishikawada Station then walk 20 minutes; another alternative is to catch a Kanto Bus bound for the museum. No matter how you get there, plan to do a lot of walking. A nap in the planetarium might be just what is needed.
* Tochigi Science Museum is also known as "Waku Waku Grandy Science Land."
**The planetarium shows are screened four times on weekends and national holidays: 10 AM (kids' program), 11:30 AM (general program), 1:30 PM (kids' program) and 3 PM (general program); weekdays, the general program shows once a day at 3 PM.
***Children under the age of four may enter the museum and planetarium without paying any admission; they can also ride the miniature train in the norimono park for free.