Saturday, November 10, 2012

Miraikan - The Museum From The Future

20th August, 2010 - As mentioned in the previous post, we had come to Odaiba so that my wife could catch up with a good friend of hers (who was temporarily back in Japan). Whilst we were there, I was going to take my son to Miraikan... the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation....

Now this is perhaps a little too old for my (then) 3 year old son... but there was at least one very good reason to go...

Asimo. This robot, first developed in 2000, has become a star attraction. Not just in Miraikan, but is globally famous. And oddly enough, is a child of Honda, the car manufacturer. Asimo - and here I'm pretty sure there's a whole army of them out back - performs every hour or so. And the the shows are always packed (especially in the holidays). And I mean packed. The good thing is that they have an area down the front that is reserved for children (with an accompanying adult) to at least be able to get a good look.

  The routine is quite enjoyable (and no, you don't need to understand Japanese to enjoy)... with lots of movement demonstrations and even a spot of soccer ball kicking. One of the things I didn't understand was the fact that off to the side (out of shot) there appeared to be a man with a computer doing some sort of control. At the end of the day, I assume Asimo isn't quite all that autonomous...

Actually, as you might have guessed, robotics form a major component of the displays at Miraikan... including some disturbing "talking" robots engrossed in their own conversation... unfortunately the explanation given didn't seem to relate much to what was going on (had they decided to throw away the script?)

And of course - if you can't get a real Asimo, the next best thing? Asimo-mini.

Another big driver in the Miraikan displays are references to nature and the natural world. I think these bits are the more educational parts... although of course, you need to have time to talk with your children about what it all means.

For example there was this complicated display of the different ecological cycles in nature  (though I did suspect that it may have also started out life as a Pachinko machine gone insane).

Now ... let's try and explain DNA to a 3 year old....

One of the more unusual displays was a rotating full-size scanner. You sit down and are rotated through a vertical scanner with the composite image displayed on a large LCD screen,

Actually, the Miraikan building also has a number of exhibitions throughout the year - and I thought we had hit gold when we discovered that the Science Behind Doraemon was going to on whilst we were there. Doraemon is a Japanese institution - a manga/anime character that has been thrilling Japanese children (and perhaps quite a few adults) since 1969. Doraemon is a robotic cat from the future, sent back in time to aid the fortunes of one young boy (and ancestor) Nobita. Doraemon has lots of wonderful gadgets (including a fourth dimensional pocket for storing all sorts of goodies, including an Anywhere-Door and a Bamboo-copter. 

It's a fun series, and L-kun loved it (and still does)... so I was hopeful that our son could have a great time here. And he sort of did... but it was also obvious that the hot weather was starting to take it's toll on him. 

So after a long day of running around, we left Miraikan - and I suspect we'll be back when it's not so hot. Actually, I have to admit that such was our overall exhaustion that L-kun and I had our first  real 'moment' walking back to Venus Fort (where my wife was shopping with her friend). I think you know that you're tired when you start arguing with your 3 year old son... sometimes it's easy to forget who is supposed to be the mature one.

T-chan shot the photo below as we returned... that my friends is the look of sheer relief from utter desperation. Survival. The day had so much already, and was lots of fun... but had quickly turned from laughs and excitement to lots of unhappy tears amidst the stinking hot Tokyo summer. And despite the tears, I can recommend visiting Odaiba! There's so much to do there it's not funny. 

Not all holiday moments are kodak-worthy, and some you want to forget (or at least re-do)... but that's also part of having a holiday. Experiencing the good, and the bad, together as a family.