It’s been really cold outside lately and Christmas is only a day away, which is why I was trying to find a fitting topic for this week’s festive edition of Anime vs. Real Life. And what’s more fitting than an anime about the heartwarming story of four high-school girl’s journey to the icy-cold South Pole? Yes, I’m obviously talking about the magnificent A Place Further Than the Universe. Unfortunately I still haven’t made it to Antarctica myself (hopefully someday), and I already wrote two articles about the show’s locations in Japan and Singapore, but the anime still does have a place that’s worth exploring, which doesn’t actually require you to travel further than the universe to ge to, and that’s the Polar Science Museum in Tokyo.
In the third episode of A Place Further Than the Universe, the first little journey all four girls take together is a trip to the Polar Science Museum, which is located a good 20 minute walk north of Tachikawa Station. It’s not the South Pole and you won’t actually get to waddle with the penguins, but on the other hand, you also won’t freeze to death, and entrance to the museum is actually free! And as you’ll get to see in a second, it also makes for a neat and informative anime pilgrimage.
The museum is located right behind Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research, which is in charge of coordinating the country’s research in the polar regions, as well as the operation of Showa Station in Antarctica, which we all got to know through the anime.
There are several statues of the two Sakhalin huskies Taro and Jiro throughout Japan, and of course, statues of them can also be found in front of the Polar Science Museum. During an emergency evacuation from Showa Station in 1958, all 13 sled dogs had to be left behind, but when the next expedition arrived almost a year later, they found out that both Taro and Jiro, even though they were chained up at first, had miraculously managed to stay alive by hunting penguins and seals. The two huskies even went on to serve as sled dogs for the new expedition team. Who knows, maybe Shirase found some kind of comfort in the story when she was thinking about her mother being left behind in Antarctica.
The exterior of the museum is supposed to look like a slab of drift ice.
The inside of the museum features several interesting exhibits regarding Japan’s polar research, which of course has a much bigger focus on Antarctica than the Arctic. For the latter I’d highly recommend the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway, which revolves around the norwegian polar explorations, and also Roald Amundsen, the first person to have reached the geographic South Pole in 1911. There was sadly only very little information about the event in the museum, but Amundsen randomly encountered Nobu Shirase (the namesake of the anime’s main heroine) in Antarctica in 1912, who was leading the first Japanese Antarctic expedition.
One of the coolest exhibits was an original KD604 snowcat vehicle, which was used during the 1968 expedition to the South Pole.
No, I wouldn’t blame you if couldn’t tell anime and real life apart in some of these pictures.
Well, you can tell by the lack of anime characters in real life. However, the museum actually had reference photos of all the exhibits that appeared in the anime onsite, and had some collaborations with the anime in the past.
As Hinata would say, “full speed ahead and keep her steady.”
Penguins are a lot cuter when you don’t have to smell them, which is what Shirase had to learn the hard way.
Aside from the emperor penguin here, there were also displays of stuffed seals, birds, fish, and even an arctic fox.
The ice core drill really was as long as Kimari said in the anime.
I wasn’t quite sure if I was allowed to take photos from behind the drill, so here’s the best snapshot I got.
There was also a sample of the rooms the researchers (and our four social media influencer protagonists) use in Showa Station.
And you can even walk inside as long as you take off your shoes.
The museum also has a small polar lights theater, where you can watch the Aurora on a four-meter-diameter domed screen on the ceiling. But like Shirase and her mom concluded, you just have to see the real deal to fully appreciate its glory. Pictured on the right here is all I got to see of it while traveling through northern Norway for a full week in winter, but I’ll try again this coming February.
We got a pretty good idea of Showa Station in the anime, but it was nice to see a full miniature layout of the 1957 on East Ongul Island established research base.
And of course, there was also more information about the Japanese icebreaker Shirase (AGB-5003), which took our four girls to the place further than the Universe. As a little tidbit on the side, the show’s title A Place Further Than the Universe seems to be a clever reference to Japan’s first professional astronaut, Mamoru Mohri, who said that it’s faster to reach space than to actually get to Showa Station, therefore making it a place further than the universe.
And last but not least, the museum even lets you try on the same jackets that Kimari and her friends wear here, as well as pose in front of the same icy background, so you can get a matching selfie. If you’re ever in need for a budget-friendly anime pilgrimage in Tokyo, which is just as entertaining as it’s informative, then pay the Polar Science Museum a visit. As for me, I think it’s high time to give A Place Further Than the Universe another rewatch over the holidays. Merry Christmas everyone!
What did you think of A Place Further Than the Universe? Sound off in the comments below!
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