Mikasa City Museum
Mikasa City is surrounded by beautiful nature and rich geological materials including coals and fossils. The Mikasa City Museum was established in July, 1979 to preserve and exhibit the nature, culture, and industry of the city (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: The museum building
The museum has five exhibition rooms with fossils from Hokkaido, plants and animals of Mikasa, and the history of the coal mines and prisons that had been in Mikasa. The museum also has an open-air exhibition promenade, stretching over 1.2 kilometers, where you can see geological strata and the heritages of the coal mines.
In the numerous displays, visitors are introduced to over a thousand specimens.
The huge statues of an Elasmosaur and a Mosasaur protruding from the roof of the museum serve as a symbol for the museum (Fig. 2). Mikasa City Museum is known as “The Museum of ammonites”, and welcomes many internal and international visitors every year.
Figure 2: the Huge landmark statues of Elasmosaur and Mosasaur.
(more than 20 persons)
|General Fee||¥ 450||¥ 150||¥ 360||¥ 120|
Multi-ticket withthe Mikasa Railway Memorial Museum
|¥ 650||¥ 250||¥ 550||¥ 200|
Location and Access
- Every Monday (If Manday is a national holiday, the museum is open Monday and closed the following Tuesday)
- National holiday (during December to Match)
- December 30th to January 4th
1. The largest collection of ammonite fossils in Japan
The Mikasa City Museum is famous as “The Museum of ammonites” throughout Japan for its outstanding ammonite collection, with displays of more than 600 ammonite specimens of 120+ species, found from Cretaceous marine deposits in Hokkaido (Fig. 3). The highlight of the exhibits is the numerous gigantic ammonites. At the entrance to the exhibition room, you will be amazed at a huge 1.3m diameter ammonite, one of the largest ammonites occurred in Japan. In this room, you can touch the displayed ammonites and imagine the ancient ocean in Cretaceous!!
Figure 3: Main exhibition room of natural history “Fossils and Cretaceous world”.
Ammonites are now extinct, and there are no living animals in the world.
However, if you observe the fossilized ammonites carefully, you will understand that it is a relative of the modern squid, cuttlefish, octopus, and nautilus. Here you will learn about the life of ammonites, the history of their discovery, and how to distinguish ammonites.
Until now, many species of ammonites are found, and about 120 species are displayed in the Mikasa City Museum. Ammonite morphology varies such as large conchs, small conchs, conchs with spines or nodes, and conchs with smooth surfaces. Some ammonites have unusually coiled conchs, the so-called “heteromorph ammonites”. Numerous heteromorph ammonites are occurred from Hokkaido. The fossil in Figure 4 has a unique shape, and it is the most famous heteromorph ammonite in Japan, Nipponites mirabilis. This species was found from Hokkaido in 1904, and the scientific name, Nipponites mirabilis means “wonderful stone in Japan”. This ammonite is well known through all over the world. Many collectors want to get Nipponites mirabilis. The Mikasa City Museum has an outstanding collection of heteromorph ammonites including Nipponites mirabilis.
Figure 4: Most famous heteromorph ammonite, Nipponites mirabilis.
Most specimens displayed in the museum were found from strata of the Cretaceous period (about 100 million years ago) in various regions of Hokkaido, and a part of that was donated to the museum by ammonite collectors around Mikasa City.
2. Fossils of an extinct large marine reptile “Yezo-Mikasa-Ryu” and other creatures of the Cretaceous
The mosasaurid skull, discovered in Mikasa in 1976, is well known as “Yezo-Mikasa-ryu”, and designated as a natural monument of Japan. The discovery of “Yezo-Mikasa-ryu” motivates to establish of the museum, and here visitors can see real fossils of “Yezo-Mikasa-ryu” (Fig. 5).Not only that, other related fossils, such as dinosauria, mosasaurids, elasmosaurids, bivalves, gastropods (snail), echinoids (sea wrchin), crinoids (sea lily), fish bones, and shark teeth are displayed in the museum.
Figure 5: Fossils of an extinct large marine reptile “Yezo-Mikasa-ryu”
3. Coal mining industry and human culture
Coal was the major energy source in Japan from the latter half of the 19 century to the middle of the 20th century. From the discovery of coals about 150 years ago, some coalmines were opened and the first railroad in Hokkaido were built to carry coals from Mikasa. Since then, Mikasa flourished as a coalmine town until the last Mikasa coalmine was closed in 1989. The current population of Mikasa is about 10,000, but in “the golden period” in the 1950’s more than 60,000 citizens lived here. The tools used in the coalmines and replicas of the houses provided for coal miners, documents related to the “Tomoko system”, which played an important role nationwide to support mutual aid and employment among miners are displayed in this room. (Fig. 6)
Figure 6: Coal exhibition room of local history “Coalmines and Human culture”
4. Materials of the Sorachi Shujikan (prison)
“Sorachi Shujikan” was established in 1882 as a prison for convicted offenders. Prisoners played an important role as laborers for the coalmines and exploitation. The prison was closed in 1901, and archival materials and a miniature of the “Sorachi Shujikan” buildings are displayed.
5. Animals, plants, and forestry gallery
In an annex, specimens of local animals and plants are displayed. Stuffed specimens of animals representative of Hokkaido (brown bear, Japanese deer, and the Yezo red fox) are highlight of exhibition. In addition, forestry materials are displayed. Visitors can see woodcutter’s cabin and tools.
Closed from November to March.
6. Open-Air Exhibition Promenade
The Open-Air Museum is located on the south of the main building of the Mikasa City Museum. Here, visitors can have a close-up view of Mikasa heritage with the shaft of a coalmine, marine strata that inclined vertically of more than 100 million years ago, and coal beds of about 50 million years ago. Note that this part of the museum is closed during winter.