When we were on our way to Totoro’s Forest, we happened to pass by Tokorozawa. Looking into it, we found that there is a small aviation museum tucked away in the area. So we decided to take one day to go out and visit the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum.
The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is based in Saitama and was the center of Japanese aviation in the early 1900’s. Now it is a museum dedicated to the history of aviation in Japan. It is not a big museum with the displays cramped together in the main hall. But it is a well thought out place. A majority in Japanese, it is a good thing that most of the staff are quite versed in English. The aircraft on display include small planes and helicopters, both civilian and military. You can even hop in on some of these crafts and fiddle around with the controls. You can close your eyes and pretend that you can actually fly one of these, but there is more to it than just imagination.
There are interactive installations further inside the museum that illustrates fundamentals of flight and aerodynamics. Matthew, being in a secondary school now that prides itself in aviation, had found a place that he can explore to his heart’s content. There are also informative videos and historical dioramas showcasing Tokorozawa and the evolution of aviation in Japan. They were in Japanese and that made it a bit difficult for us to fully immerse ourselves in it. But visually, it tells a lot. There are also flight simulators where you can “fly” a small plane and land it safely on a runway. There is also a gravity simulator that makes you feel the differences in gravitational pull on other planets (and the moon). Up on deck, an air traffic control facility is also present. And while you don’t get to send planes up in the air, the feel of it is really cool. Maybe technology has evolved that most of the equipment shown at the museum is already obsolete, but it is a reminder that we wouldn’t be where we are now if we didn’t start out with simpler things.
Of course, no trip to a museum would be complete without a visit to the museum shop. And the museum shop in Tokorozawa is unique in that it really focuses on aviation stuff. We managed to get a propeller plane powered by a rubber band and a flapping contraption also powered by a rubber band. The flapping contraption flew quite well and we really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I had misinterpreted the salesperson and thought that she gave us a built one for free and that we had bought an un-built one as well. It wasn’t the case and we ended up giving away the only flapping contraption to some school kids who were on a trip. At least it went to a good cause.
The Tokorozawa Aviation Museum is a nice place to visit because it is small, out of the way and far from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can relax and quietly stare at the aircraft or outside in the field with the trees and wide grassy field. It is definitely a place to visit with or without kids.