The train museum!!! RUN!!!! Don't walk!!!! AAAAHHHH!!!!!!
A few weeks ago we visited The Railway Museum in Saitama, just north of Tokyo. I had heard good things about this museum, but was unprepared for how amazing it would be.
The scale of the institution was astounding. We spent most of the day there and probably covered about half of the exhibits. The main floor held at least a dozen full-sized rail cars and engines, some of which are important artifacts of Japan's train history, such as the 1964 zero-series shinkansen, and the original steam trains to run on Japanese rails. The second floor contained exhibits of objects related to train history- signage, uniforms, tickets, maps- all organized around a timeline of the last 150 years. Very cool stuff.
There was also a huge model train set-up, complete with theatre seating and a narrated show to describe the various trains running on the enormous set. A kids room with seemingly limitless plastic train sets to play with was a big attraction for us, as was the train-themed playground outside.
The integration of the train theme was also amazing. Entrance fees are paid by Suica, the commonly-used pre-paid train card. The museum has it's own station on a small monorail line that originates at Omiya. We also enjoyed the train bento (lunch boxes), including the shinkansen (bullet train) shaped bento box that little man selected. The lunch area was- not surprisingly- two train cars, where we ate lunch gazing at the various JR and shinkansen tracks that pass by the museum. In the course of our full day we didn't even get to the exhibits that describe train technology and engineering, nor did we try out the many simulators that are available for visitors.
The model train exhibit.
More of the model train exhibit. This is about half of it.
Some of the many engines exhibited on the first floor.
The 1964 Zero-series Shinkansen!
The artifact and timeline section of the museum.