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The 7 wackiest museums in Asia
No more wax celebrities and paintings of emperors you’ve never heard of. Find true enlightenment -- as well as microscopic teddy bears and old-time sex toys -- at these offbeat museums
1. Meguro Parasitological Museum, Tokyo
Not for the squeamish, the Meguro Parasitological Museum takes pride in being the only establishment in the world devoted entirely to parasites. Along with an extensive collection of roundworms, hookworms, flukes, nematodes and leeches, the gruesome yet highly educational museum has on display a dog's heart attacked by heartworms and a dolphin's brain spilling with brain worms. But don’t worry about the creepy crawlers actually crawling. Almost all of the specimens are preserved in formaldehyde.
Don’t miss: The 8.8-meter tapeworm. It’s billed as the world’s longest, but some records show otherwise. The monstrous creature was extracted from a man who ate some bad trout.
Details: 4-1-1, Shimomeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0064. Open 10 am to 7 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Monday. Free
2. Jeju Teddy Bear Museum, Jeju Island, South Korea
One or two teddy bears on a shelf are cute. Thousands of teddy bears sipping tea, strutting down the catwalk and reenacting Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” are creepy. The bear overload nonetheless draws visitors to the Jeju Teddy Bear Museum on idyllic Jeju Island. Lovers of the stuffed mammals will find bears big and small -- as in human-sized bears and bears you can only see under a microscope. Many of the bears are dressed as iconic figures -- there’s an Elvis bear, a Charlie Chaplin bear and a Mona Lisa bear. Unfortunately, these bears don’t snuggle. Those who want to give 'bear hugs' will have to make a stop at the gift shop.
Don’t Miss: The most expensive teddy bear in the world. The Louis Vuitton teddy bear, complete with a logo trench coat and matching suitcase, will set the posh collector back US$193,000.
Details: Located in the Jungmun Resort Complex on Seobu Industrial Road in Jeju. Open 9 am to 7 pm, daily, with extended hours in the summer. Admission: $6 adults, $4 children
3. Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, Tokyo
It’s no surprise that Japan would pay homage to its ubiquitous noodle soup, a dish that has warmed stomachs across the globe. Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum features oodles of ramen-related display pieces -- ramen bowls, ramen-making utensils, dioramas on the history of ramen, ramen-themed video games and a replica of the first-ever ramen dish, reportedly eaten by a 17th-century samurai. But the most satisfying attraction? The bustling food wonderland located in two underground levels, painstakingly created to resemble a streetscape in Tokyo circa 1958, the year instant noodles were invented.
Don’t miss: The Nissin Cup Noodles factory. You can create a pack of instant ramen to suit your own taste buds. You choose the flavor and ingredients, and even design your own packaging.
Details: A five-minute walk from Shin-Yokohama Station. Open 11 am to 11 pm, Monday to Friday; 10:30 am to 11 pm, Saturday and Sunday. Admission: US$3 adults, US$1 children and senior citizens
4. China Sex Museum, Tongli, China
Nestled in the quiet town of Tongli is one of China’s most provocative attractions. The China Sex Museum houses more than 3,700 erotic pieces that romp through 9,000 years of Chinese sexual history. There are beds used by Ming-era prostitutes, antique brothel coins and sex-instruction scrolls, all presented in an academic context. The corridors are surrounded by a picturesque garden filled with statues, some tame and others startlingly graphic. Museum founder Liu Dalin, a pioneer of sexology in China, has said that one of his missions is to transform the Western stereotype that the Chinese are illiterate when it comes to sex.
Don’t miss: The 'Sex in Primitive Society' exhibit. You’ll leave enlightened -- and maybe a little red in the face -- after viewing the prehistoric sex gadgets, including a two-sided cast-bronze dildo.
Details: Located in Tongli Town, Wu Jiang City, Jiang Su Province 215217. Admission: US$6
5. Kyoto International Manga Museum, Kyoto
Established on the site of a former elementary school in downtown Kyoto, the modern Kyoto International Manga Museum is a manga aficionado’s paradise, housing nearly 300,000 titles from Japan and abroad. Galleries show the historical development of manga, highlighting rarities such as Meiji-period magazines and postwar rental books. (For serious scholars, a vast archive in the basement keeps volumes dating to the 19th century.) What visitors appreciate most about the museum is its hands-on exhibits -- about 50,000 manga can be flipped through and enjoyed.
Don’t miss: Weekend demonstrations by Kyoto Seika University grads on how to draw manga. For a fee, they’ll even draw you as a manga character.
Details: Karasuma-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0846. Open 10 am to 6 pm, daily except Wednesday. Admission: US$5 adults, US$3 students
6. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi, India
Yes, the toilet, as in the loo, pot or porcelain throne. The Toilet Museum offers a fascinating look at the evolution of the humble lavatory, from 3000 B.C. to the present. Antiquated toilets, including ornately painted medieval urinals and ancient stoneware chamber pots, are juxtaposed with futuristic models. Fun toilet facts are offered throughout. (Did you know Louis XIV purportedly relieved himself while holding court?) Founder Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak says the museum is part of his “sanitation crusade” and has provided affordable toilets for thousands in India.
Don’t miss: Displays on toilet customs through the ages. Back in 1500 B.C., before defecating, married folks in India were to hang a 'sacred thread' on their right ears, cover their heads with cloth and have a moment of silence while facing north during the day and south at night. We’re grateful that today, when we gotta go, we can just go.
Details: Sulabh Bhawan, Mahavir Enclave, Palam Dabri Marg, Pin 110 045. Open 10 am to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday. Free
7. Ayashi Shonen Shojo Hakubutsukan (Mysterious Boys and Girls Museum), Izu-Kogen, Japan
When it comes to bizarre museums, this one takes the freak cake. The dizzying shrine to Western and Asian pop culture is packed with thousands of figurines (wartime action figures, aliens, Jessica Rabbit), mannequins dressed in retro designs, Godzilla toys, Marilyn Monroe dolls, Mao memorabilia, arcade games, S&M collectables and one of the most grotesque haunted houses on earth.
Don’t miss: The yard exhibits. Yes, there’s more weirdness awaiting you outside.
Details: 413-0235 Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture 1029-64. Open 9 am to 5 pm, daily.