Photo/IllutrationTeNQ Space Museum is an entertainment museum where visitors can enjoy interactive displays themed around space exploration. (Photo Lisa Vogt)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Ten Little Indians, the Ten Commandments, a ten-gallon hat, someone or something is a “ten out of ten.” Many words come to mind when I hear “ten,” but TeNQ? That’s a new one, and despite not knowing what it was or meant, I liked the ring of it.

Just outside Suidobashi Station, within Tokyo Dome City, which is sometimes still called “the big egg” even though the name has officially changed, is a yellow building named, well, Yellow Building. Inside this aptly named building on the sixth floor is TeNQ Space Museum.

I’ve been to many space-related facilities: the Smithsonian, NASA in Texas and Florida, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, Meteor Crater in Arizona, Mauna Kea Observatories in Hawaii, and a ton more. And with lots of places under my belt, I’ll say that I was impressed with TeNQ!

The name is a play on the words “thank you,” combined with “ten” meaning sky or exhibit and “Q” which is part of the Japanese word for quest and the English abbreviation for “question,” among others.

At the reception desk, you must choose one of two introductory programs to start your museum visit.

A time is stamped on your admission ticket, and unless your timing is perfect, most people will have to wait a bit, and how convenient: the thoughtful designers have put the gift shop right next to the entrance. This time-stamped ticket method is a good way to control the flow of visitors to ensure a positive experience.

First, a movie is shown on a multi-dimensional wall. Then, we are ushered into the highlight of the museum: an 11-meter-wide circular screen called Theater Sora where a space voyage is simulated. I loved it!

After leaving the theater, there’s a “Science and Imagination” area where people can learn about space with many hands-on activities. A research center annex of the University of Tokyo is located on one side of the exhibition hall, and people can see researchers doing what they do.

Near the exit, there’s Kotoba-rium, a darkened corridor with thought-provoking quotes appearing and disappearing into the ether like the stars do in the heavens.

Human beings have a primordial curiosity and urge to explore and challenge the unknown. In our day-to-day lives, we sometimes forget the very big picture, the essence of who we are. TeNQ will put you back on track. Ten four?

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This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.