Visit the Space Science and Technology Museum at the Tanegashima Space Center to learn about Japan’s history with space exploration.
Did you know that it’s possible to visit the largest space center and rocket-launch complex in Japan? The Tanegashima Space Center has long been a major part of Japan’s space program, which makes the chance to see it up close in person quite a special thing. The only catch is that the space centre sits out on the island of Tanegashima, around 40 kilometres to the south of Kyushu. Make the trip to visit here though and you’ll be sure glad you did, especially if you have even just a passing interest in space exploration.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the Tanegashima Space Center and its excellent Space Science and Technology Museum.
Background of the Tanegashima Space Center
To fully appreciate why you should make the journey to Tanegashima, it helps to know a little of the Space Center’s history. Established in 1969 with the formation of the National Space Development Agency of Japan, the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) is used for research, development, assembly and launch of Japan’s rocket systems. Today the site is operated by JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Covering an area of 9.7 square kilometres, the Tanegashima Space Center is the largest launch complex in the country. The complex features a rocket launching pad, mission control, tracking stations and test and research facilities.
Launches from the centre’s Yoshinobu Launch Complex include satellite launches, cargo deliveries to the International Space Station (ISS) and other test runs. As such, TNSC is a core part of Japan’s space program. There are various observation points, such as the Rocket Hill Observatory, around the island of Tanegashima so that onlookers can watch launches from a safe distance.
The Space Science and Technology Museum
©Kagoshima Prefectural Tourist Federation/©JNTO
While getting the chance to watch a launch from the Tanegashima Space Center is sure to be quite the spectacle, those who visit outside launch windows and can instead pay a visit to the Tanegashima Space Center museum.
Set across several floors, the Space Science and Technology Museum takes visitors through the development and successes of Japan’s distinguished space program. The museum’s exhibits here display equipment like launch vehicles, rockets and satellites, as well as full scale models, such as a recreation of the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module on the ISS.
But the museum is also quite the interactive experience as well, with games and fun exhibits designed to help you engage with subjects like rocket science, astronomy and other aspects of space exploration. Interactive activities designed to test your knowledge here are particularly popular with kids and adults alike.
Besides the museum, visitors to the space centre can also visit the Rocket Launch Theater. There on a large screen with full audio you can experience a rocket lifting off from the complex’s launchpad.
Information for Visiting the Tanegashima Space Center
- Admission to the Space Science Museum is free to visitors.
- The museum is open from 9.30am to 5pm every day but Monday, when it is closed.
- Guided tours of the site’s facilities take place three times a day, but must be booked in advance.
- Whenever there is a launch window at the space center, the public must remain 3 km outside the radius of the launch site, preventing visits at this time.
Visiting the Tanegashima Space Center with the JR Pass
Since the Space Centre is located on the remote island of Tanegashima, it’s unfortunately one place in Japan you won’t be getting to by train or JR Pass. To reach the island of Tanegashima, you can either fly to the island’s airport or take the ferry from Kagoshima.
Once on the island, it’s roughly an hour drive to the Space Centre depending on how you arrive. It’s also possible to take a bus from the port at Nishi-no-Omote right to the Tanegashima Space Centre which takes two hours.