Okinawa Prefectural Museum – Natural History

Museum FloorCONTRIBUTED BY JENNIFER SHUE

This little gem is nestled right between the Toys R Us/Babies R Us and the Naha Mainplace. If you’ve been down there you must have seen it. The outside is the creamy limestone so common in Okinawa and is stylistically reminiscent of the various gusuku sites scattered around the island. Inside, it is beautiful, open, and airy, divided into two wings: natural/local history and art.

The natural history side is marvelously well-done, though don’t go expecting anything quite like the Smithsonian.

As you enter the wing, you feel as though you are walking on water, approaching an island. My daughter could not believe that we were supposed to be walking on the large glass floor tiles and the lady working behind the desk had to come out and show her that it was OK.

Museum

You’ll enter a main exhibition hall with exhibits about Ryukyu geography, climate, culture, history, ecosystems, and more. There is a really neat interactive floor map that will show you various animations about ocean currents, seasonal weather and cloud patterns, Habu habitat ranges, cultural calender, historical trading routes with China and Japan, typhoons, and I forget what else. Aside from the entry hall, this is my daughter’s  favorite thing about the museum.

Museum Computers

There are also several smaller exhibit halls including a specimen room, maps and mineral samples about the composition of the islands and how they were separated from China by the rising seas, plants and animals, early human settlement.  In addition to this, there is a hands-on room adjacent to the main lobby, a museum gift store with some great gift ideas, a cafe upstairs, and a rotating exhibit hall upstairs. The hands-on room does not have very much English language information, unfortunately, but you can still have fun in there trying to figure some things out. Almost all of the museum side has some sort of English-language information to go along with the exhibits.

Museum Exhibit Hours:  The Prefectural Museum is open Sun-Th, 9am-6pm (last admission at 5:30), Friday and Saturday from 9am until 8pm (last admission at 7:30). They are closed on Mondays. However, if Monday is a National Holiday, the day after a National Holiday, or Okinawa Memorial Day, the museum will be open, but will close the following Tuesday instead. And will close for the New Year’s holiday, Dec 29th-Jan 3rd.

Parking:  There is ample parking in the front lot.

Price:  General admission for adults for the main exhibit hall and associated exhibits (pretty much everything other than the rotating exhibit upstairs) is 400Y, elementary and junior high students are either 150Y or no charge, high school students are 250Y. There are annual passports for sale for each side of the museum, or both the art and natural history side combined. The information on the website regarding annual passes is incorrect, but I can tell you that my annual pass for just the museum side was approximately either $36 or 37 and my daughter gets in free with me. Bring yen for admission – I pulled out my Visa and the ticket lady’s eyes got all big like I had just done something wrong. The gift shop takes Visa though.

Website: www.museums.pref.okinawa.jp/english/index.html

Directions:  Take 58 south into Naha. Turn left at the third light after the long overpass just after Kinser. There will be a building with red and white letters that say “Agre” on the right. This is the same turn to go to Babies R Us/Toys R Us or Shintoshin Park, Naha Mainplace, or DFS Mall or DFS Food Colliseum. Pass along the front of the Babies R Us. As you go under the pedestrian overpass have your indicator on and turn into the museum parking lot entrance immediately on your left.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This place is great! We took our kids (4 and 18 months) there today and they loved it. Frankly our expectatins were low; we just wanted to beat the heat after having exhausted most other indoor options but we spent a good hour in the ‘hands on’ room (which, by the way, isn’t an area you need to pay admission for) and another 90 minutes in the actual museum. What a great place! The pics don’t do it justice!

  2. I was checking the Museum’s English-language website to see about upcoming exhibits and saw this incredible, but very limited time, opportunity.
    In conjunction with the Japan Tourism Agency, there are special guided tours of the museum’s permanent collection available in ENGLISH (Chinese and Korean are available also). However, the time period for these tours is already half over.
    Read the information in this link, it is self-explanatory.
    http://www.jtbgmt.com/museumtourism/eng/index.html

    If you have already visited the museum and had questions about some exhibits or items you have seen, or if you have never visited the museum, this is a great chance to learn more about the natural and cultural history of Okinawa. Though this speical guided tour is only 30 minutes, I would hope that the tour guide would be willing to answer additional questions, especially if the tour group is small. After the tour, they will ask you to complete a questionnaire, most likely to determine the need for these types of tours. Your interest and answers can be very helpful in planning future tours or events for other foreigners visiting the museum.

    Other notes: You need to purchase a regular admission ticket to the museum collection, read the Price information in the article above.or check the museum website.
    You can also go to the Art Museum portion of the building, though most exhibits have a separate admission fee, there are occasional free exhibits, usually in the smaller rooms down the hallway.

    When you are in that area of Naha City, you can visit some of the other nearby places that have been written about on OkinawaHai! Use this website’s search feature, it is just under the big bold hai! in the page top banner. Type the word Shintoshin in the box and click on GO, then look through the articles.
    There is a wide variety of shopping and restaurants in Naha City. Perhaps while on your city adventure you will find something new and/or interesting to share with others by writing and submitting an article to be used on OkinawaHai!

  3. I went during the mummy exhibit with my children and a friend and her children. While we all loved it, I will say they seemed to be a little less than thrilled with the kids enthusiasm. My son in particular tends to get a little loud when he’s excited-and we got quite a few glares. I was honestly surprised that they seemed not quite child-friendly. The kids were not running, not yelling, nothing out of control-they were just happy, excited kids fascinated by the stuff they were seeing.

    I’m sure we’ll go again, and hopefully they’ll be a little more quietly excited. They did love the touch room-and loved being able to bang on the drums!

  4. We visited this museum last month with our 4 children and the “Touch and Feel” room is not to be missed. The wonderful ladies in there dressed my daughter in beautiful Kimonos that they handled with gloves on. She loved every minute of that. While my boys were holding the Sanshins(sp?), the ladies got out a laminated card and proceeded to teach them how to play it. By the time we left, they were playing a little tune. We also really enjoyed the traditional Okinawan home outside that you can tour. My oldest son is a fab artist so we will be returning soon to see the art section as we did not have time to visit that section on this particular day and he was disappointed. Go see this place, it is worth it!!

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