Gakken Otona no Kagaku Kits Series

TOCNumbered Mook Kits
Sound Gadget Series
Unnumbered Mook Kits
Science Life
Petit Handmade
Mook Only
Kit Only

10/06/14 - Added entries for the Pocket Miku, Auto Writer and Steel Drum.

Gakken is a publisher of magazines, mooks (magazine books) and science kits for both children and adults. Collected here are the "Otona no Kagaku" ("Adult Science") kits. I'm ignoring the children's kits largely because they're not as interesting, and it's not worth trying to buy them as imports. You can find info on them from Gakken's online shop. What I do have are the two sets of Adult Science kits - the mook series and the kit-only series. The mook series packages a really nice glossy magazine-book filled with background info, descriptions of other science experiments to try, and various stories of science history, along with the kit itself. The kit-only series contains a much higher-quality kit, usually a "premium" version of a mook kit but without the mook. Usually, the mook kits have volume numbers, but there are some exceptions (such as with the synthesizer and the aurorium). I'm currently only buying and reviewing the numbered mook series kits. The ones that don't have reviews are ones I haven't bought yet.

Note that many of the lower-numbered kits are out of print, which is why I don't have kits 3, 4, 5, 7 and 12 now. These are available from collectors, but at 2 to 10 times the original cover price. New kits come out roughly once every 3 months.

The mook kits are designed to be customized and otherwise modded. The mooks often have several pages of customizations as suggested and implemented by the authors and editors. Not all of the kits are worth modding, though, so I'll only put in links to mods that I've done myself. Note that the obvious first mod to any kit that runs on batteries is to add a mono headphone jack to connect up an external DC power supply.

- Curtis

Visit the Otona no Kagaku Ranking Chart here.

Numbered Mook Kits

No. Title Cover Price
Review Date Published Magazine
1 Self-Propelling Boat 1680 Review 4/1/03 Magazine
2 Finger Printing Kit 1680 Review 8/1/03 Magazine
3 Pinhole Camera 1680 Not Reviewed 12/19/03 Magazine
4 Crystal Radio 1680 Not Reviewed 4/1/04 Magazine
5 Illuminated Microscope 1680 Not Reviewed 7/1/04 Magazine
6 Phonograph 1800 Review
12/24/04 Magazine
7 Steam Engine Car 1800 Not Reviewed 3/1/05 Magazine
8 Slow Clock 1800 Review 8/10/05 Magazine
9 Planetarium 2200 Review
11/1/05 Magazine
10 Sterling Engine 2100 Review
1/15/06 Magazine
11 Newtonian Telescope 2100 Review
4/20/06 Magazine
12 DaVinci Helicopter 2100 Not Reviewed 6/27/06 Magazine
13 Kaleidoscope Projector 2100 Review
10/20/06 Magazine
14 Stereo Pinhole Camera 2300 Review
12/1/06 Magazine
15 Reflective Movie Projector 2300 Review
3/1/07 Magazine
16 Tea-Carrying Windup Doll 2300 Review
6/1/07 Magazine
17 Mini Theremin 2300 Review
10/20/07 Magazine
18 Wind-Powered Generator 2300 Review 12/1/07 Magazine
19 Galileo-Style Telescope 2300 Review
4/25/08 Magazine
20 Bird Organ 2500 Review 6/27/08 Magazine
21 Magnet Motor Car 2500 Review 10/15/08 Magazine
22 Edo-Era Static Generator 2500 Review 12/21/08 Magazine
23 Poulson Wire recorder 2500 Review 3/31/09 Magazine
24 4-Bit Microcomputer 2500 Review

Programming Guide
6/30/09 Magazine
25 35 mm Reflex Camera 2500 Review 10/30/09 Magazine
26 Mini Electric Guitar 3675 Review 12/17/09 Magazine
27 8-bit Microcontroller 3360 Review
5/14/10 Magazine
28 Edo-style Clock 2950 Review
w/ Japanino Project
7/28/10 Magazine
29 Origami Lamp 3000 Review
w/ Japanino Project
11/5/10 Magazine
30 Animaris Ordis Parvus 3500 Review 01/15/11 Magazine
31 Ornithopter and Entompoter 2400 Review 06/09/11 Magazine
32 Mini Denshi Block 3990 Review 11/30/11 Magazine
33 Desktop Robot Vacuum 2940 Review 1/30/12 Magazine
34 Delta Twister 2940 Review 5/17/12 Magazine
35 2-Cylinder Steam Engine 3150 Review 7/24/12 Magazine
36 Edison Cylinder Recorder 3650 Review 9/25/12 Magazine
37 Animaris Imperio 2950 Review 12/14/12 Magazine
38 Radio-Synchronized Flip Clock 3500 Review 04/18/13 Magazine
39 Updated Pinhole Planetarium 3,500 Review 07/25/13 Magazine
40 Miniature Effects Camera 3675 Review 09/28/13 Magazine
41 The Auto Writer 3500 Review July 22, 2014 Magazine
42 Electronic Steel Drum 3300 Review Sept. 29, 2014 Magazine
43 Hurricane Humidifier TBD Not Reviewed TBD  

Sound Gadget Series

This is a new series of kits announced around September, 2011, building on the popularity of the SX-150 mini-synth, and the Theremin. These are slightly higher-end musical toys intended to introduce users to the basics. There's no mook, and probably little to no assembly required. So, in this sense these are not "kits".

Title Cover Price
Date Published

SX-150 Mark II
This is an upgrade to the original SX-150, with the addition of VCF and LFO controls, and a Resonance control instead of just the switch.
7350 10/30/11

Pocket Miku
The "Singing Synthesizer Pocket Miku" isn't technically part of the Sound Gadget line, but this is a convenient place to include the link. The Miku combines the carbon keyboard/case style of the SX-150 with the Yamaha NSX-1 chip used in their Vocaloid products.
4980 04/03/14
The Udar is a very strange synth that is played kind of like how you solve the Rubik's cube. Gakken first announced the Udar in 2010 and it never got out of development. Still no tentative release date or price yet.

Unnumbered Mook Kits

The mooks for these kits only cover the history of that specific type of kit (that is, the vacuum tube variometer radio mook talks about vacuum tubes, and their use in radios), the theory of operation, and gives instructions for building the kit. The radio and synth mooks also offer suggestions for simple mods).

Title Cover Price Date Published Magazine
SX-150 Analog Synthesizer
The synth consists of a pre-assembled circuit board and speaker, the case, knobs, stylus and resistive strip. Takes between 15-20 minutes to assemble. Uses 4 AA batteries.
3360 7/30/08 Gakken Page
Science and Study
Science and Study is more of a nostalgia piece than anything else. It's dedicated to Gakken's output as a science publisher. Half of the mook is a look at all of the toys and kits Gakken came out with from the 1960's to 2009, and the rest is either articles from famous people reminiscing over their favorite toys, or reprints of manga that had been in some of the science magazines. The attached kit is a glow-in-the-dark skeleton. If you like older manga, it's worth getting the mook.
1680 4/17/10 Gakken Page
The aurorarium kit consists of a pre-assembled base and LED stand, a fogged plastic cone, and some reflective disks. Light from the LED bounces off the slowly spinning disk, and is diffused by the plastic cone. The three LEDs cycle between red, green, blue and various combinations of each as kind of an updated lava lamp. Takes no more than 10 minutes to assemble. Uses 4 AA batteries. This is not actually one of the Otona no Kagaku kits, as it's part of the Kagaku no Tamago (Science Egg) children's series, but it's always included in with the adult kits in the bookstores.
2200   Gakken Page
Hand-made Speaker
The cover shows all of the parts of the kit. Lots of gluing to do. If you're careful and take your time, it may take 1-2 hours to fully assemble and let the glue dry, then it's up to you as to what to do for the housing. May represent 15 minutes of actual assembly.
2940   Gakken Page
Variometer 1 Vacuum Tube AM Radio
Unlike the other kits in the unnumbered mook series, this one actually requires some work to build. There's the case, antenna forms, vacuum tube, battery casings, and wire to make the antenna coils. Maybe 15 parts total, and with the hand-winding of the coils can take 60-90 minutes to assemble. Uses one C cell, and three 9 volt batteries. One suggested mod by Gakken is to turn it into a wireless telegraph. The audio signal is weak and there's no volume control, so you'll want to add an audio jack to a powered external speaker.
3250 5/26/09 Gakken Page
Rhinoceros Mini-Beest
The sequel to kit #30, the Theo Jansen Animaris Ordis Parvus.
3500 07/30/11 Gakken Page
Electromagnetic Speaker
An external speaker for your MP3 player, using wireless power to light 4 LEDs.
2960 11/28/13 Gakken Page

Science Life

Gakken keeps coming out with new product lines, while sort of abandoning the old ones. In 2012, they came out with "Petit Handmade" for girls, "Easy to Make Crafts for Beginners" and "Science Life". Science Life is a glossy color magazine scheduled to come out roughly 4 times a year. It's written in collaboration with members of Japan's top universities to ensure accuracy and up-to-date information.

Title Cover Price Date Published Web Page
Beginning of Stars, Galaxies and the Universe
Photos of deep space, and discussions of current theories on the Big Bang.
2,100 9/18/12 Gakken Page
Higgs Particle - The Start of the Universe and Matter
Discussions on the Higgs Boson and CERN
2,100 12/10/12 Gakken Page

Petit Handmade

I'll combine "Petit Handmade" for girls with "Easy to Make Crafts for Beginners" here, since there aren't many kits in either line yet.

Title Cover Price Date Published Web Page
Simple Paper Tissue Projects
980 9/11/12 Gakken Page
Using Cards to Make Textiles and Cellphone Straps
1,575 4/19/12 Gakken Page
Making Fluffy Dogs and Cats from Felt
1,680 8/31/12 Gakken Page
Finnish Himmeli Straw Ornaments
1,680 12/11/12 Gakken Page
Cocca Patchwork Bag
1,680 04/01/13 Gakken Page
Making Small Animal Felt Brooches
1,680 09/05/14 Gakken Page
Making Small Ceramics
1,900 12/17/14 Gakken Page
Rainbow Loom
1,200 8/7/14 Gakken Page


While the Otona no Kagaku series is largely dedicated to building things, there have been a couple of releases that consisted of just the magazine, with or without a DVD. I haven't given these products the attention they deserve, so I'm going to remedy that now and include them in the list (as of Feb., 2012). Note that the older ones are harder to find in the bookstores primarily because they're located in with the normal books rather than grouped together with the other kits. For example, the Korg book was in Digital Music; Rocket and Space was in Misc. Astronomy; and From Materials to Life was in General Science.

Title Cover Price Date Published Web Page
Rocket and Space Exploration
This is just the mook, with LOTS of photos of rockets, satellites and some close-ups of the planets. There's a comparison of rockets from various countries, the history of rocket and space exploration, a discussion of the Cold War space race, and a look at what's required to live on the space station. There's also a fold-out cutaway poster of a Saturn-V.
1680 7/14/09 Gakken Page
World of Theo Jansen's Strandbeest with DVD
A color mook showing pictures of Theo Jansen and his creations, plus a 23-page semi-biographical manga. The 45-minute DVD contains an interview with Jansen and footage of the beests in action.
1800 7/21/2011 Gakken Page
Korg DS-10 Synthesizer
This is an instruction book for playing with the Nintendo DSi running a Korg synth simulator (which you can buy directly from Korg). It contains profiles of 17 Japanese sound "meisters", and a list of 100 suggested waveform settings.
1800 12/11/09 Gakken Page
From Materials to Life
This is a collection of the science commentary and history articles that had appeared in the first few numbered kit mooks, issued as a hardback book. Lots of photos of scientists and machines from the first half of the 1900's.
1890 11/5/09 Gakken Page


Title Cover Price Date Published Web Page
Premium Theremin
9,975 12/18/08 Gakken Page
8mm Film Projector
7,980   Gakken Page
Two Edo-Era Tea Carrying Wind-up Dolls
  Gakken Page
English Instructions
Arrow Shooting Boy Wind-Up Doll
10,290   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Somersaulting Wind-Up Doll
5,981   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Premium Gramophone
7,980   Gakken Page
Vacuum Tube Amp
12,390   Gakken Page
Crystal Radio
5,775   Gakken Page
Vacuum Tube Radio, Ver. 1
8,800   Gakken Page
Vacuum Tube Radio, Ver. 2
9,801   Gakken Page
Edison-Style Cup Phonograph
3,045   Gakken Page
English Instructions
New Edison-Style Cup Phonograph
2,981   Gakken Page
Berliner-Style Gramophone
4,095   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Programmable Robot
I got this kit as a present for a friend. It's cool in its simplicity. Basically, it's a pair of motors connected to a battery through two photoresistors. Light from an LED bounces off the disk and hits the photoresistors, changing the motor speeds. As the robot advances, the disk rotates and the black ink marks represent the "program". The "program" then lets you trace different patterns with the robot's movement.
3,990   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Volta-style Carbon Battery Kit
3045   Gakken Page
Marconi-style Electric Wave Car
3360   Gakken Page
Mechanical Crab
5,981   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Mechanical Inchworm
5,981   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Mechanical Centipede
7,980   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Stirling Engine
9,801   Gakken Page
English Instructions
Vacuum Engine
15,540   Gakken Page