Monday, July 24th, 2023

Tamba: another of Japan’s Jurassic Parks

Photograph of the front of a dinosaur museum in Japan, with the head of a smiling dinosaur smashing through the wall

Dinosaur fossils have been found in about three dozen locations in Japan. Wherever they pop up, the local city makes the most of the tourist potential. From museums to mascots, evidence of the country’s prehistoric past is writ large for those who go looking.

For the most part these are aimed at the local tourist rather than those from foreign shores. Most of the museums I’ve explored around Hyogo and Kyoto have predominantly Japanese information with little in English beyond a few name plates. To be fair, they are way off the beaten tourist trail and are pretty small compared to those in Tokyo or Osaka.

Photograph of a Japanese field. In the far distance a sauropod looms
Nothing to see here. Just a dinosaur at the local playground…

Which is a shame because not only are the museums interesting in their own right, the surrounding countryside is often quite stunning. Tamba, where these photos were taken, is where Tambatitanis was discovered. A river cuts deep into a plain, going down into the geological record and unearthing both the fossil and a clutch of eggs.

The site is open to the public, though now protected with a concrete shell, and nearby are casts of the original find and a small visitor’s centre. It was staffed by a single old lady when we visited, who was busy having a nap. Nearby is a small road station and a dinosaur themed park (sorry, no photos as there were kids playing a massive game of tag).

Photograph of a raging river. In the foreground is a concrete cap, and on it the outline of a dinosaur painted in pink.
The location where Tambatitanus was found is open to the public, albeit protected with a concrete shell.

More parks were scattered up and down the river, including one only accessible via a creaky suspension bridge. We spent quite a while there enjoying a spot of lunch and watching the world go by.

Photograph of a white JR Line train rushing across a level crossing in the Japanese country side
A JR Line train rushes across land once walked by dinosaurs

If you are interested in geology or dinosaurs, set aside a little time on your trip to explore further afield. You might need a car and a translation app, but it will be worth your time.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.