Children (no matter how old they are) will probably recognize the names of H. A. and Margret Rey, the creators of the beloved “Curious George” series. But less known are the two books they did on astronomy, which are being brought to life on the very big screen.

Rey was a great lover of the night sky, and one of the notable achievements he and his wife made in the “star” books—“The Stars: A New Way to See Them” and “The Constellations”—was to make it easier to recognize these often abstract star arrangements in the night sky. Sixty years since their publication, the books still remain as two of the gold standards for educating stargazers of all ages.

Starting on Saturday, June 6, Tsukuba Expo Center will be offering an original planetarium show based on these books, and in a rarity for Japan, the program will be offered in English. It’s a collaboration between the Tsukuba Expo Center, Tsukuba International School (the principal and a primary school student provide the English voices), and Brian Landberg, an Ibaraki-based employee of Intel. The English language track is available on earphones that are loaned out at the beginning of the shows.

If you haven’t made the trip up to the Expo Center, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the planetarium is truly a draw for astronomy buffs. It’s one of the largest in the world, with a dome diameter of 25.6 meters and featuring a 4K digital projection system and a image database that includes 1.5 million galaxies and can simulate the universe back to 12 billion years.

Tsukuba Expo Center is just 45 minutes away from Akibahara, or 38 minutes from Kita Senju, on the Tsukuba Express train line. The Expo Center and planetarium are a pleasant 10-minute walk from Tsukuba Station, and they are very easy to spot: just keep your eye out for the 50-meter, full-scale H2A rocket next to the main building.


You should definitely put these shows on your list for summer activities if you’ve got a budding astronomer in the family, or if you just want to rekindle that sense of wonder that comes with looking up at the starry sky.

Tsukuba Expo Center

Admission Fee (with and without planetarium charge): ¥820/¥410 (18 yrs.+), ¥410/¥210 (4–17 yrs.) *free entry for children 3 years old or younger. If you have a planetarium ticket, then you can buy an admission ticket for the exhibit area for half price.

Where: 2-9 Azuma, Tsukaba, Ibaraki (see map below)

When: June 6–August 31; Weekdays, 12:50 and 14:10 / Weekends, 12:50 and 15:30

More info: (Japanese only)

—Alec Jordan

Main Image: Photo: ©McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi/ Illustration: ©2005 by Allan Drummond