Fukui and the Dinosaurs: What is the Connection?


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A T-rex statue with glasses and a lab coat.

Famous worldwide for its numerous dinosaur fossils, Fukui is a must-visit destination in Japan for dinosaur enthusiasts, archaeology buffs, and fossil lovers. Here, you will find many unique dinosaur attractions and exhibitions that take work to experience elsewhere. Let’s explore this destination and its beloved Dinosaur Museum to learn about Fukui!

Where is Fukui Prefecture?

Located along the Sea of Japan in the Chubu Region, Fukui is easily accessible from major Kansai cities such as Osaka and Kyoto. Established in 1881, it was formed from the ancient provinces of Echizen and Wakasa. It’s a wonderful place to visit in central Japan, known for its beautiful landscapes, rich history, and unique attractions. 

Eiheiji Shrine in Fukui Prefecture.
The coast of Fukui is on the Sea of Japan. Image via Shutterstock

This area is especially well-known for its dinosaur museum, considered one of the best in the world. Here, you can see full skeletons and learn about these ancient creatures. In addition to dinosaurs, Fukui features the tranquil Eiheiji Temple, a key site for Zen Buddhism, and Maruoka Castle, one of Japan’s twelve remaining original castles. 

For those interested in crafts, Fukui is the birthplace of Echizen pottery. You can visit workshops to see how these charming pieces are made and even try making your own. Natural beauty is also one of its biggest draws. The prefecture features dramatic coastlines, like those at Tojinbo Cliffs, where waves have carved stunning rock formations over centuries.

When did they find dinosaur fossils there?

Fukui Prefecture has produced about 80% of all dinosaur fossils in the country. Six of the nine dinosaur species in Japan were discovered in this prefecture, highlighting the region’s importance in paleontology. Dinosaur fossils were first discovered in the 1980s. The journey began in 1982 when people unearthed a nearly complete Crocodilia skeleton in Katsuyama City. Then, in 1988, archaeologists found two carnivorous teeth! These early discoveries led to later extensive excavations, revealing many more fascinating fossils, including bones, teeth, and footprints.

A brontosaurus statue in Fukui.
Some notable dinosaurs include the Fukuisaurus. Image via Shutterstock

Researchers named the notable finds the Fukuiraptor and Fukuisaurus after discovering them in this area. Additionally, in March 2010, they assembled a complete skeleton of a dinosaur called Doromaeosauridae, demonstrating the fantastic variety and preservation of the fossils found here. Visitors can see these amazing fossils at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum.

Many dinosaur fossils exist in Fukui because the Kitadani Formation—a major digging site—formed during the Lower Cretaceous era (145 to 100.5 million years ago) when Japan was still part of mainland Asia. Additionally, floods from a big river sometimes buried dinosaurs, creating ideal conditions for fossilization. Furthermore, the exposed cliffs along the river allowed more accessible access to excavation sites.

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What is the dinosaur museum?

The Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, established in 2000, is famous as one of Japan’s largest paleontological museums. It received a makeover in 2023, expanding its permanent exhibition to showcase 50 complete dinosaur skeletons (up from 44) alongside numerous replicas. Once inside, visitors journey through the fascinating world of dinosaurs and Earth sciences. As you explore the museum, you’ll learn about the Earth’s history over billions of years, from ancient times to today. In addition, some exhibits show how life has changed and evolved. 

A complete dinosaur skeleton at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum.
Most of these skeletons came from the Kitadani Formation. Image via Shutterstock

Moreover, this place also offers various activities to engage visitors, including the Field Station, Japan’s largest dinosaur quarry, where guests can embark on a thrilling three-hour fossil-finding adventure. You can get hands-on experience in the Dino Lab to learn more about dinosaurs and fossils. Be sure to meet the 7-meter T-rex robot at the entrance, a beloved mascot of this world-class museum since its opening

The dinosaur museum is in Katsuyama Dinosaur Forest Park, filled with beautiful natural scenery and a dinosaur theme. The park also has outdoor areas perfect for picnics and relaxation. Life-sized dinosaur models are on the walking paths. 

Remember to visit the museum’s gift shop for cool dinosaur-themed souvenirs. They have everything from toys and books to clothes and unique items you can only find here. The museum’s Dino Café also offers fun dinosaur-inspired treats and exclusive local dishes, making it a perfect spot to take a break and grab a bite.

The entrance to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. There's velociraptor statue next to a rock.
This is one of the most famous dinosaur museum in the world. Image via Shutterstock

Why should I visit the museum?

Visiting Fukui prefecture and stopping by its excellent dinosaur museum could be an unforgettable experience for anyone. With its impressive collection of fossils and interactive exhibits, the museum offers a fascinating journey through time. Whether you’re a dinosaur enthusiast or just looking for an exciting day out, there’s plenty here to captivate visitors of all ages. So, why not plan a trip and see the wonders of the prehistoric world for yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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