June 19, 2019

Museum Review - Soya

When Lord Nelson visited Tokyo this past December, she went to see Soya, an arctic research vessel turned museum ship.1

Type: Arctic research vessel
Location: Osaka, Fune-no-kagakukan Station to be precise. It’s approximately a 30 minute ride from central Tokyo via public transit.
Rating: 3/5
Price: free

Soya offers only self-guided tours, perhaps due to the cramped quarters. The ship is interesting enough at first, but once you’ve seen half a dozen officer’s bedrooms, the novelty starts to wear off. The rooms are entirely glassed in, making photographs difficult, and on the rare occasion that the tour route reaches the deck, all the interesting bits are roped off. It certainly doesn’t help that all of the signage is in Japanese, with the exception of the title translations, which can be… rather unconventional.2

Also interesting: the mannequin poses.

The highlight was the glass floor that let you see down into the engine room.

Also included in the tour route were a video room, several artifacts, and displays on the ship’s history, all of which were in Japanese. Taro and Jiro, two of Japan’s most famous canines, received a shout-out near the end.3

Taro and Jiro

Other things of note included a small collection of naval items in an outdoor park, which contained research vessels, a gun from an armored cruiser, and a wooden fishing boat. The large, ship-shaped building next door is supposed to house exhibitions, according to Google. It was closed when I visited, perhaps due to the holidays or due to the dreary weather.

The fishing boat

There’s also a museum nearby,4 with various ship models and educational displays, aimed mostly at children. The children’s books on sale were quite nice for the 300 yen price tag. As with the ship itself, all the signage in the museum was in Japanese.

This deck, with what look to be extra propellers, was roped off.

Final thoughts: There’s only so much you can do with this type of a museum ship, and the curators did a decent job with what they had. Soya is worth a visit if you’re in the Odaiba area anyway and are either proficient in Japanese or don't mind being unable to read the signage. However, if you’re short on time or don’t speak the language, I’d prioritize Mikasa or Nippon Maru,5 both of which can be accessed via the public transit system.

1 All photos courtesy of Lord Nelson. If you’d like to contribute a review, email me at battleshipbean at gmail.

2 For instance, Saloon is a word that kept appearing. Japan, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

3 The Tokyo Natural History Museum, which is excellent, contains more information (including an English translation) about these two dogs, who managed to survive 11 months in Antarctica after they had to be left behind.

4 Museum is perhaps overstating things, as it’s a single room of modest size. Still, it has some interesting displays, and the Japanese children seemed to be enjoying themselves.

5 Nippon Maru herself was closed during my trip to Japan, but the attached Yokohama Port Museum alone was worth the visit. It was quite well done and had a decent amount of English signage, along with an impressive naval library.


  1. June 22, 2019Conrad said...

    The museum next door is the Museum of Maritime Science and it's a shame Lord Nelson didn't get to visit it, it had some pretty neat stuff with plenty of English signage.

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