Of all the things synonymous with Japan, from Mt Fuji to Shibuya crossing and manga to geisha, I'll bet dinosaurs is not one that makes the list! So it may come as a surprise to learn that Japan is home to one of the 3 best dinosaur museums in the world.
The Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, Japan's only dedicated dinosaur museum, is located in Katsuyama, Fukui, which is also home to the country's most productive fossil site, the discovery place of the Fukuititan, Fukuiraptor, Fukuisaurus, Fukuivenator and Koshisaurus. If you've come to Fukui by train, chances are you've already met them at the station!
The museum is housed in a gigantic dome which lends an amazing sense of space and perspective. The ramp around the perimeter if the dome allows visitors to see the dinosaurs from a range of angles and heights to truly appreciate their size. And, my goodness, some of these dinosaurs really were big!
There are exhibitions on earth sciences and the history of life and the Dino Lab is a great hands on space, geared for kids to have closer look and touch at fossils, teeth, claws and footprints.
Outside, there is plenty of walking to do and a great playground for the kids, dinosaurs included of course.
Tours to the field site and hands on fossil finding experiences are available and popular so book in early, especially on a weekend. I haven't done this yet, so I can't comment on whether there is any English guidance.
Katsuyama is approximately an hour from Fukui by train on the Echizen Eheiji Katsuyama line. There is a community bus that runs from the station to the dinosaur museum and is timed well for train arrivals and departures.
The museum is closed on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of month and over New Year. Check their website for other occasional closed days.
If you are flexible with your visit, it's also worth checking their calendar for free entry days which happen about once a month!
English audio guides are available.
There is one restaurant in the main building and a second across the carpark, closer to the playground area.