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Dinosaur park offers access to lost world

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Life-size models of dinosaurs are displayed at the Katsuyama Dinopark in Katsuyama, Fukui Prefecture.

By Shingo Masuda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKATSUYAMA, Fukui — These days, when people think of Fukui Prefecture, many immediately think of dinosaurs.

The Katsuyama Dinosaur Forest Park in the city of Katsuyama is a big draw for families, bringing a lively atmosphere to the area. The city is famous for excavations of dinosaur fossils, including the Fukuisaurus, which is among the many dinosaur fossils displayed at the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum in the park.

Also in the park is the Katsuyama Dinopark, a theme park that opened last year with displays of life-size dinosaur models. When I visited, I was stunned when the dinosaurs suddenly moved and roared. The dinosaurs are strewn throughout the park and their natural coloring is like camouflage that helps them blend into the background.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Weaving machines are operated at the Yume Ole Katsuyama textile museum.

While there are some models in the museum, those in the Dinopark have an immediate impact as they are displayed in a forest setting. Many visitors posed for photos as if they were being attacked by the dinosaurs.

“They are so real, aren’t they? Some children are even reluctant to walk ahead because they get too frightened,” said Akimitsu Ueda, a planning and liaison manager of the nonprofit organization Kyoryu no Machi Katsuyama Oentai, which manages the park. I realized what he said was true when I encountered a 13-meter-tall Tyrannosaurus.

Those who wish to experience excavation activities at the park can do so at a section called Doki Doki Kyoryu Hakkutsu Land, which is filled with stones from excavation sites in the city. Make a reservation to be sure of a chance to participate in the excavation. Visitors can find fossil remains of not only dinosaurs, but also shells and plants, which were buried by sand and mud about 120 million years ago. Over time, these items fossilized.

Wearing cotton work gloves and goggles, I hammered a stone with a metal chisel. The stone was harder than I expected, and I worked up a sweat. But despite how hard the work was, the participants kept chipping away at the stone, presumably because they hoped to discover dinosaur fossils as their own treasure.

When children participating in the excavation activities discovered something, they took their finds to a staff member with a magnifying glass. When their discoveries were judged to be shells or plant fossils, the children’s faces lit up with a smile. If their discoveries were deemed scientifically valuable, experts at the museum would examine them in detail. Otherwise, participants could take their discoveries home as a souvenir. Even though such souvenir fossils may not have any scientific value, they could be regarded as “precious treasures” for participants.

Katsuyama has also enjoyed a reputation for its textiles. The textile museum Yume Ole Katsuyama is a former weaving mill that operated from 1905 to 1998. Pieces at the museum help visitors understand the structure of habutae silk, a local specialty, and the history of the city that developed along with the textile industry.

“The main feature of our museum is that machines on display work in the same way as when they were in operation,” said Ichiro Yamamoto, a museum manager.

Seeing how the machines work helps visitors realize how textiles are weaved. They can also experience weaving using a simple machine. I tried to make a coaster by weaving silk, alternating the warp and weft threads. To make the texture even, I had to do it with even tension. This was much more delicate work than I had imagined.

I learned at Katsuyama that even in excavations that require physical labor, delicate attention is important so the fossils are not damaged. I carry this lesson forward in whatever I do.

To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&dSpeech

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