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Visit Japan’s prehistoric past

by Akira Okubo

Staff Writer

It’s hard to imagine, but millions of years ago elephants roamed Japan. Although they died out long before civilization, Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science can help us imagine these majestic creatures and other prehistoric mammals through a display of Japan-specific fossils. The “Ancient Mammals Exhibition” showcases 170 rare specimens collated from various Japanese museums, and it is the first large-scale exhibition to focus on extinct mammals that once inhabited Japan.

One of the highlights is a set of three skeletons of the prehistoric Japanese elephant Elephas namadicus — a male, female and child — which will be exhibited together as a family. Various other kinds of ancient elephant fossils that were uncovered in Japan are also being shown, and exhibits will have information so that visitors can compare them with the mammoth and today’s African elephants.

Another fascinating exhibit is a fossilized skeleton of a Paleoparadoxia, a hippo-like mammal that lived in Japan around 15 million years ago, and about which little is known.

“Ancient Mammals Exhibition” takes place at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, from July 12 to Oct. 5. Admission is ¥1,600 for adults and 600 for children. For more information, call 03-5777-8600 or visit www.honyu-rui.com (Japanese).