Astronomical Telescope Museum, the history of astronomical telescopes and Japan’s optical industry

The world is a big place. There are many things in the world that we didn’t know existed at all. Wouldn’t you like to experience such a “completely new world”? There is such a “rare” spot in Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku. Its name is “Museum of Astronomical Telescopes“.

You may be familiar with the name “astronomical telescope”. Yes, it’s a tool for looking at the stars in the night sky. Some of you may have seen it at school or at a nearby science museum. However, you probably don’t know that there is a “museum” that houses hundreds of such telescopes. This time, we’ll take a closer look at the “Astronomical Telescope Museum” and how interesting it is!

This is an article for people like this!

I’d love to have a rare experience in a rare world!

Interested in the starry sky and astronomical telescopes

I’m an astronomical telescope enthusiast.

In front of the reception desk of the Astronomical Telescope Museum. There is a large sign and a huge “astronomical clock)”. This one was also donated.
General Incorporated Association, Museum of Astronomical Telescopes, Official HP.
Tenrif Editor-in-Chief
Tenrif Editor-in-Chief
There is only one museum dedicated to astronomical telescopes in the world. Even if you have never been interested in the stars or astronomy, this is a place where you can experience all kinds of discoveries and realizations!


GOTO INC‘s  planetarium projector. This instrument was operated in Kumamoto until recently, but was decommissioned due to the earthquake and moved to the Astronomical Telescope Museum.

Let’s take a look at the exhibits at the Museum of Astronomical Telescopes in order.

Exhibition Building for Large Astronomical Telescopes

The large refracting telescope made by the GOTO INC. Late Showa period, when Japan was in the midst of rapid economic growth, a number of observatories were set up in educational institutions throughout the country. It was donated to this museum when it ran out of places to go in the course of time.

The Museum of Astronomical Telescopes was opened using the abandoned Tawa Elementary School. This floor, where the reception is located, was formerly an indoor pool. That pool has been reclaimed and a number of large astronomical telescopes have been installed.

Although the large telescopes are not easily moved, almost all of them are cleaned and maintained so that they are ready to be used at any time. On the day of the event, Mr. TANKO, one of the staff members on the right side of the photo, took us to the event.

This is the only place in the world where there are so many astronomical telescopes. Its presence is overwhelming.

Ongots, such as optical glass and fused silica, are used to make lenses for astronomical telescopes. After the period of rapid growth, Japan’s astronomical telescope industry had become a world leader.

Observatory with a large telescope.

Newly constructed large telescope observatory adjacent to the old school building. The roof slides open, and you can operate the telescope to observe the sky from here. On clear days, you can see sunspots and prominences of the sun during the day.

Unfortunately, it was cloudy weather (it even rained after this), but we were able to see the roof with it open. On a clear night , you can see the Milky Way in full view.

The frame is made by “U-HAN Co,Ltd”. About 40 years ago, I visited this telescope in another place. I was reunited with that telescope.

This is the 60cm RC reflector telescope that was moved from Kyoto University’s O-uda Observatory in 2017. This is a structure in which the whole building slides open. It is said that it was made by using a warehouse unit of a certain major storeroom manufacturer.

In the observation room, the children listen to the explanation from the staff with great interest. This picture was taken from this place. I can see the Milky Way so well.

Small Telescope Exhibition Room

The four classrooms on the second floor of the old school building have a number of small telescopes on display. This is a corner of “Asahi Kogaku” (Pentax), which withdrew from the production and sales of astronomical telescopes in 2009(*), but is still loved by many fans today.

(*)The company continues to manufacture and sell astronomy-related products, such as eyepieces for astronomical telescopes.

This is a corner of “Takahashi”. Along with Vixen, it is one of Japan’s leading astronomical telescope manufacturers. These astronomical telescopes are still in use by many amateurs.

Astronomical telescopes were the longing of science boys and girls in the high-growth period in Japan. The three companies, “Mizar”, “Astro” and “Vixen”, were called “Gosan-ke(the big three , in Japanese)” at the time.

Astronomy Library

The astronomical library on the third floor. A huge amount of astronomical documents and journals are stored in the museum, which can be browsed. Back issues of the magazine have been available almost since its inception.

Reflecting telescopes were relatively easy for amateurs to build using two circular glass plates and about six different types of abrasives, and many of the core astronomical amateurs of the Showa era (1926-1989) devoted themselves to mirror polishing. The cylindrical case on the far left is from the reflector telescope polishing set that was sold as a kit.

In the library, there was a display of reflectors made by “Kaname Nakamura”, “Shigemaro Kibe” and “Takao Namura”, masters of making a reflector telescopes.

In Japan , we live in a time when financial difficulties are becoming apparent due to the low birthrate, aging population and low growth. Isn’t “leaving the legacy of the past for the future” treated as a rather low priority?

I’m not going to argue anything about it, as the author is not very bright about the current state of humanities administration and science education. As an ordinary person who loves science and astronomy, I just think that as long as there is a valuable history and culture that should be left to posterity, it is the mission of those who live in this world to pass them down in some form.

In that sense, I think the “Astronomical Telescope Museum” is a monument to the history of science and industry in Japan. This is a place that should be protected. It left a deep impression on me as one of the places I want to visit again.

Science and culture and their inheritance


This is a frame designed for the United Kingdom at 51 degrees north latitude, and was set up quite far forward to compensate for the latitude difference of about 15 degrees.

A prologue to the history of astronomical telescopes in Japan, the Culver 46cm telescope (installed in 1927) was once located at Kyoto Imperial University’s Hanayama Observatory. It was the “best telescope in the East” at the time. It was later moved to the private observatory of the late Dr. Issei Yamamoto, who was the father of Japanese astronomy and amateur astronomy.

A telescope used for precise measurement of latitude and longitude reference points by shining a laser at a satellite. It was used from 1982 to 2009 at the Shimosato Hydrographic Observatory, Japan Coast Guard Headquarters, Wakayama Prefecture, but it ended its role with the advent of GPS.

“Why did you collect hundreds of astronomical telescopes? “Well, there are all kinds of people in the world. I don’t think that’s all there is to it,” he said. Collecting five hundred astronomical telescopes is a bit different from collecting five hundred wine labels. (hommage:Pinball, 1973)

Many astronomical telescopes used by “astronomy boys” in the late Showa era. It is likely that each dream was burned into their eyes through the lens. And now, it is still maintained in a state where it is ready to go into active service at any time.

The economic history of astronomical telescopes, which were on the rise until the Halley’s Comet boom around 1985, followed by a “stable period”.

Many things have a “lifespan”. Nothing in form, not even the universe, is eternal. But as long as there is a desire to pass it on to the next generation, it will not cease to exist. The history of human star gazing is still intact at the Astronomical Telescope Museum.

Reuse of abandoned schools in underpopulated areas

The Astronomical Telescope Museum is located in the building of the disused Tawa Elementary School. The blackboard, chairs, and paperwork from the elementary school days are almost intact.

The poem “The sunset comes down my back,” written on a blackboard. As long as there is an astronomical telescope museum, this blackboard will be left intact.

Operated entirely by volunteers and donations

The day we visited was the last opening day of 2019, and this is a shot of the volunteer staff during a delivery after the opening.

The “teacher’s room” is used as the “office” for the staff. When I opened the entrance door, I could smell a nostalgic “teacher’s room smell”.

Most of the equipment housed in the Astronomical Telescope Museum was donated by donors from all over the country. As the name of the Museum of Astronomical Telescopes has been raised, donations from all over the country have continued to come in. The donated telescopes will be carefully maintained and displayed by our staff.

“Shosaku Murayama”, the founder of the Astronomical Telescope Museum, representative director.

There are about 100 registered volunteers from a wide range of regions, ages, and backgrounds, mainly from Shikoku and Kansai, but also from Kyushu in the west to Hokkaido in the east. There are many members who became registered immediately after coming to see the tour.

These volunteer staff members juggle their time to keep the museum running. Most of the museum’s operating costs are covered by donations from individuals and corporations. The staff’s transportation costs are also paid for by hand. Isn’t this amazing? (*)

(*)I hope you realize the fact that such a wonderful project is supported by so many donors.

A Guide to the Astronomical Telescope Museum

Going south on Prefectural Route 3 from Sanuki City, you will find the words “Astronomical Telescope Museum” on the white dome.

Location and business days

The Astronomical Telescope Museum(天体望遠鏡博物館) is located in the mountains in the east of Kagawa, near the border with Tokushima. By car, get off at the Shido IC on the Takamatsu Expressway, the Wakimachi IC on the Tokushima Expressway, and the Takamatsu IC. It’s an easy to understand building, so if you navigate it, you won’t get lost.

If you take public transportation, you can take Sanuki City’s community bus, which has 4 round trips a day, so please check the time carefully!

It is important to note that, in principle, the museum is open only on Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is open on Fridays and Mondays that are national holidays, but closed during the year-end and New Year holidays. click here to check out the opening date! The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours of the museum will be provided by volunteer staff. Admission is 500 yen for adults, 400 yen for high school and college students, and 300 yen for elementary and junior high school students.

Events such as viewing parties and craft classes

At the Astronomical Telescope Museum, there are events such as “nighttime astronomical observing”, “telescope craft class for beginners”, and “telescope usage class” (reservation required, some are charged).

From the website of the Museum of Astronomical Telescopes.

Shikoku is also one of the most “starry-eyed” regions in Japan. The image above is of the Milky Way, taken at the Astronomical Telescope Museum, but there is no big city, especially to the south, and the starry sky is superb. You can see the beautiful starry sky through Their collection of telescopes, which is different from the “astronomical observatory” in urban areas.

Scenic spots in the vicinity

Udon ( thick Japanese noodles)

There are only two types of udon in the world: Kagawa’s udon and the rest.! “Kama-age Udon” at Nagata in ka-no-ka. This is my the top recommendation!

Kagawa Prefecture is an “Udon prefecture”. Kagawa’s udon noodles have become a major tourist attraction in Japan. Udon in Kagawa is better than anywhere else in Japan, more affordable, and all the restaurants are at a high level. If you visit the Astronomical Telescope Museum, be sure to visit ”Sanuki Udon” on your trip to the Astronomical Telescope Museum!

Naruto and Awaji Island

In the distance, you can see O-Naruto Bridge.

To access the museum from the Kansai area, you will need to take Takamatsu road from Awaji Island. Naruto’s whirlpool tides are especially good during the spring high tide season. Also worth a visit is the Otsuka Art Museum, which is located near the O-Naruto Bridge.


Small astronomical telescopes for amateurs in the 1980s and 90s, when astronomical telescopes sold best in Japan.

Thanks for reading this far!!

For amateur astronomers and telescope enthusiasts like the author, the Telescope Museum is a place that should be called “holy ground”. Every astronomy fan should visit this place at least once.

However, I thought that the Astronomical Telescope Museum is a place to visit if you’re not a geek. The astronomical telescope, a tool that has pioneered modern science, has a strong sense of presence as an object in itself. It is also a symbol of the “dream” given to science boys and girls during the economic growth and development of postwar Japan.

More than anything else, this “astronomical telescope museum” is a miracle born of people who want to leave such “astronomical telescopes” to the next generation. To preserve and pass on science and its culture. What can I do to make this happen? This is the place that actually did that.

I hope you will visit this place and feel the “something” that gave birth to this place.

A self-made 20cm reflective telescope , made by “Jiro Hoshino”. He was one of the pioneers of Japanese reflective telescope making and astrophotography.
Tenrif Editor-in-Chief
Tenrif Editor-in-Chief
Jiro Hoshino is like a god to me, who spent time as an astronomy boy in the 1970s.

Photo Gallery

There are many more items in the collection than we have listed here. I hope you’ll take a closer look at them with your own eyes!

“Unitron” 15cm refractor equatorial mount.

Nikon’s large refractor telescope. On the left is Nishimura’s 15cm refracting telescope, used by ‘Kai-hostu’ , a pioneer of amateur astronomer. It’s lens is made by Kaname Nakamura.

In the 1970s, Nikon’s 8cm refractive equatorial mount was so expensive that it was very out of reach for many people.

The 60cm telescope made by Hozuki Giken. Founder Sojiro Norizuki is a world-renowned astronomical telescope craftsman. He is said to have built about 400 telescopes for numerous observatories and research institutes during his lifetime.

The astronomical telescope collection of Shigejiro Nishimura, the founder of Nishimura Manufacturing.

A large reflector grinder used by Takao Naemura, a master of reflector telescope.

Depositor for the plating of reflective telescopes. The inside of this tank is vacuumed and the aluminum is deposited.

Nowadays, the image of a solar telescope is that of a telescope observing with H-alpha light, but in the past, it was a coelostat or ciderostat. Siderostat, which was relocated from the Kumamoto City Museum, and many other solar telescopes are in the collection.

A group of astronomical telescopes from the early Showa era.

Actually, this was the first telescope that I touched.

EIKOH’s STH-115, rare truss structure reflection telescope.

This is also made by EIKOH. The main feature of this camera was that it did not require the optical axis alignment of the “sky radar type” viewfinder, which was marketed as a “single-lens reflex type” at the time.

Legendary “Dowell”. It seems that the company has been selling astronomical telescopes as long as GOTO.

Dowell’s sign.

GOTO’s Mark-X, about 3 generations before? The equatorial globe. The table on the left has a Zeiss-like design.

Mr. Shirakawa, one of the volunteer staff, had a special exhibition “The History of Small Astronomical Telescopes” on display. This is “Super-Chibi-Tele” and “Famisco”.

“Why did you collect so many Kaiser models? In Japan at the time… there were many Kaiser models.”

Eight Kaiser-type 8cm refractor telescopes from Mizar. Many people who have visited the Astronomical Telescope Museum have uploaded this photo on their blogs.

This is a magazine article that introduces the observatory that Mr. Murayama, the representative of the museum, personally built.

NTK’s kit for making reflective telescopes is well known to all old fans. The pink powder in the container that looks like eel sauce is cerium oxide. The black is the pitch (asphalt) used in the final polishing process.

A 3D poster of a dinosaur, the same one found in Giga Opt ,a telescope store in Gunma, Japan.

  • Images not otherwise noted were taken by the editorial department.
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