The Museum of Maritime Science (船の科学館, fune-no-kagakukan) is located in Odaiba just across the container port of Shinagawa and offers an excellent view of the Tokyo Rainbow Bridge. It was founded in 1974, reportedly with gambling profits from boat racing (kyōtei, 競艇), and is shaped like the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth; it was the first building to be erected on the then newly reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay.
It holds four floors of exhibits related to all aspects of civil and naval shipping and shipbuilding, from ancient Japanese rowing boats, to medieval sailing boats and modern ferry and container ships. The collection comprises countless meticulously crafted boat models, including wooden models of Japanese sailing boats from the Edo Period (弁才船 bezaisen , 北前船 kitamaebune, etc.), submarines from World War II, warships (like the battleship Shikishima from 1898 or the largest Japanese battleship ever built, the Yamato), the oil tanker Nisseki Maru, container ships, icebreakers and modern ships of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Unfortunately, most explanations are in Japanese, but English audio guides are available for 500 JPY. On the rooftop, just beneath the bridge, remote-controlled boat models can be navigated around a small pond. There is also a small library devoted to maritime history for further research.
The Sōya and the Yōtei-maru
Moored right next to the museum is the Sōya (宗谷), which was commissioned in 1936 by the Soviet Union, but never handed over. She then served as an icebreaker for Tatsunan Kisen Co., as a wartime patrol boat and ammunition vessel, and was the first Japanese ship to take part in an Antarctic research expedition. She rose to international fame, when on her second trip to Antarctica in 1958 she rescued the crew of Japan’s Showa Station (昭和基地). Pack ice prevented the Sōya from reaching the station, so the team had to be evacuated by helicopter.
Unfortunately, there was not enough space to rescue the fifteen sledge dogs. Expecting a relief team to be despatched within a few days, the Sakhalin Huskies were left behind chained and with provisions for just a week on February 11, 1958. Due to bad weather, the relief team never made it to the station. When the Sōya finally returned in January 1959, the crew found two surviving dogs, the brothers Taro and Jiro, who later became famous in Japan. Their adventure was made into a movie by Kurahara Koreyoshi (Nankyoku Monogatari 南極物語, literally “South Pole Story”) in 1983, which was in 2007 adapted by Disney’s movie “Eight Below”.
Decommissioned in 1978, the Sōya has been on display at the museum since 1979. Next to the Sōya, was another permanent exhibit, the Yōtei-maru (羊蹄丸), the Seikan ferry boat between Hokkaido and Aomori. According to media reports, the Yōtei-maru has been removed in 2012.
The Museum of Maritime Sciences has closed its gates on September 30, 2011 infinitely for “renewal”. Since its opening in 1974, eighteen million people have visited the institution.
Visiting hours and admission:
Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00, closed on Mondays (when Monday is a holiday, the next working day); closed from Dec. 29 to Jan. 5.
Adults 700 JPY, senior citizens 450 JPY, visitors under 18 years of age 400 JPY; reductions for groups available.
Location and access:
3-1, Higashi-Yashio, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, 135-8587; 〒135-8587 東京都品川区東八潮3番1号; Phone: 03-5500-1111, Fax: 03-5500-1190.
Access: Shinkotsu Yurikamome Line, Fune-no Kagakukan Station.
- Museum of Maritime Science Official Website (in Japanese)
- Maritime museum’s SOS: Does anyone want decommissioned ferry?
- First Antarctic expedition member pays homage to Sakhalin dogs left behind
Taro and Jiro in 1959