Posts Tagged 'Japan'

More fun with toys

A couple of weeks back I posted about the little Zhuchengtyrannus model from Japan I got through the post. I managed to get in touch with the company responsible and asked if I couldn’t buy a few more copies from them for my colleagues. Instead they were kind enough to send me a complete set of the model series to which ZT belongs and I thought I’d share them.

They are (top to bottom and left to right): Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Allosaurus, Yutyrannus and Sinoceratops. Sadly it seems though my little tyrannosaur has the least consistent paint job going as the rest all seem to be a little better done, and the colours etc. are a bit more consistent. I really like their T. rex, though the green mohawk looks very out of place, and bizarrely the Yutyrannus model has the eyes painted in the antorbital fenestra, but overall they are still a nice set. One really cool thing is that the Allosaurus comes with a replacement tail that also attaches to the Stegosaurus and the bases also interlock so you can create an alternate tableau:

More Lambeosaurus heads

Right at the end of last year I put up this little post of a Lambeosaur head sitting in a German museum basement. This time it’s equally exotic (more stuff from Tokyo) though this time at least visible to the public. It’s a pair of skulls, quite obviously, and I’m happy to identify them as far as Lambeosaurus, but no further than that (and no, I wasn’t smart enough to take a photo of the label, though of course that may not have been up to date or right anyway). Having put up Nipponosaurus the other day it seemed worth continuing with the hadrosaur theme and provide a rather better idea of the range of skulls for this genus.

Osaka Zoo

Having cleared out, as it were, the backlog of my biological expeditions in Japan, it seemed worthwhile finally putting fingers to keyboard about the Osaka Zoo. I recall not being that impressed by the place but looking back over my photos there’s plenty in there that I did really like. Ultimately it was a zoo in transition with a large number of obviously new enclosures, well designed and offering an excellent environment to the animals and the public.

However, there were other parts that were in pretty poor state, and while admittedly a number of these had few or no occupants, some were really not good (the various monkeys and many of the big cats being the obvious ones). This reminded me on Antwerp zoo when I visited (many years ago now) which was equal parts superb and mediocre. That said, given the good in Osaka, I rather got the impression that things were simply being dealt with as and when the money became available. Thus I’d hope that a return visit a few years from now would see the end of most, if not all, of the bad stuff. I have sympathy for this problem, rebuilds cost a fortune and naturally the animals have to stay somewhere while the old place is demolished and the new one built, or while the funds are being accrued. So while there is much that can be improved, much is already good and the quality of the new additions bodes well for the general trajectory of the place.

The zoo is really in the heart of the city, and while attached to a major park is not really in it – rather like the London Zoo in fact. In size it’s not huge, and there are large spaces between some areas and as noted, some major sections (like the waterfowl) had very little in them. As such, despite its footprint, it doesn’t take too long to cover – only a couple of hours really.

Onto the good – and some of this is excellent. The flamingos, rhinos and hippos all luxuriate in superb new enclosures. The tigers and chimps were in good spaces as were the deer and sealions among others, and the good collection of bears were generally fine. There was a truly magnificent free-flight aviary the biggest, and arguably best, I’d ever seen, though rather let down by having very little in it – just a few dozen egrets and some storks and ducks. There was also a nice little nocturnal section and a huge hall to house three koalas though for no obvious reason at all, photos of the latter were not permitted.

The two real highlights were a new reptile house and a Hagenbeck-style African savannah. The former opened with a really nice mixed exhibit of American alligators and turtles and moved onto the usual fare of various herptiles though all of which were nicely done. The finale was a large open-plan hall which was well planted and with various free birds in the air. Set into the walls were a number of tanks for a variety of species, with some more open-plan sections housing tortoises and others. All together a rather clever use of space and mixture of animals.

Zoo aficionados will know the name of Carl Hagenbeck and his revolution in zoo design. While most of his best work was done in Germany, not many of his original layouts and designs survive, though his legacy certainly lives on. Hagenbeck was especially famous for producing clever landscaping effect. From the right vantage points cunningly places walls and moats would vanish leaving the viewer to see things as, apparently, a single large enclosure housing multiple species. In this case the main paddock housed giraffe, eland, ostrich and zebra, with one swampy end also being home to some Marabou stork. Running free inside and out were a collection of guineafowl, but the disguised barriers meant that all of these appeared to share this with both lions and at the other end, a spotted hyena. It was superbly done, and in addition to the actual plan, it was well set up with excellent viewing areas, and space for the animals.

Osaka Aquarium again

I’ve written before (and posted lots of photos) about Kaiyukan, the aquarium in Osaka, but on my last trip to Japan I took the opportunity to go again. In fact, I took an extra day simply to go, so delighted had i been the first time. Of course not that much had changed in the intervening years (they rarely do in such places and especially when the place is dominated by a few major tanks). Even so, there were new delights and new species to see which was a pleasant surprise. Here are some new additions and some old favourites.

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Tokyo Botanical Gardens

My recent short trip to Japan was about as intense as it could have been for someone who loves their biology, two museums, two zoos, two aquaria, a wildlife preserve and a botanical gardens all in about 7 days. The Botanical Gardens of the University of Toyko are out in the city’s suburbs, but aside from a few views from the tops of a hill where the cityscape interrupts you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the heart of the countryside. While some areas are given over for study and experiments, the grounds as a whole are well laid out for visitors and in addition to obviously introduced things like the koi, there was an abundance of wild insects and even vertebrates that had made the place their home.

Here then is a taste of the grounds and their contents, both animal and vegetable.

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Tokyo Aquarium

The Musings is clearly long overdue a zoo review and this summer brought me to two new places to explore – the Osaka Zoo and the Toyko Aquarium. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get round to covering the former as while it was, on the whole, perfectly satisfactory, it had little that was truly novel or exciting except a giant but underused free flight aviary and then a superbly designed Hagenbeck-type African savannah exhibit. The aquarium in Toyko however, had numerous exciting and interesting exhibits and I enjopyed my visit there immensely, so that’s what you’ll be getting today.

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Unlike some of my fellow bloggers, I’m not buried in dinosaur toys and models, though I do have a few cluttering up my desk and office. To be honest I don’t know many people who don’t have at least a few going around. I generally take a look at the selections going in a museum gift shop or the occasional toy store, especially when I’m abroad and might see something new or different.

When in Japan, this can rapidly become very time consuming. Models of various kinds are very popular there and dinosaurs are major sellers. Even small stores can have a huge range of things from the very small and cheap to massive skull replicas and high-quality 1/10th scale tyrannosaur life reconstructions. Here’s just one side of a display in a Tokyo toy store – it’s got more models of more kinds and different brands than anywhere I’d seen before and this wasn’t the only place with this kind of selection. I can think of a couple of people who might go broke if allowed more than 10 minutes in a few of these places.

Ueno zoo, Tokyo

While I got back from my little trip to Japan almost 2 years ago now, I have still yet to write up my trip to the excellent Ueno zoo in Tokyo (though some phots have turned up here before). As with much of this series of zoo reports, it’s best to focus on the different or unusual and avoid the basics that any good zoo should have.

In this case this is rather easy, the zoo was large, well designed and with excellent enclosures. There were some obvious specialties (a really good collection of bears, several birds of paradise) and some unique animals like a Javan tiger and showbills which I had not seen before which is always a bonus for the dedicated zoo goer (I saw teporingos!!!). They were in the midst of a rebuilt of the elephant section which looked great and must be open now, and their reptile house while still being given the finishing touches, was brand new and truly first rate with a monstrous estuarine croc in residence. Some set-ups were especially nice, such as the raised perspex box that allowed otters to swim around at eye level effectively outside their enclosure.

The last real comment was the size of the place. Split across a road, I had though I’d covered most of it before discovering the second ‘half’ and suddenly it was much bigger. Despite quite a few hours there, I didn’t cover everything and as noted some parts were still under construction or development, so it’s very much a full-day kind of place. Well worth a visit, though I tend to say that about any good zoo. And certainly you have to admire their commitment to safety.

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