Back to the future

After Kyoto, Tokyo feels like being projected into the future, and potentially nowhere in Tokyo feels more like that than the Miraiken Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

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If you are at all interested in science and technology this is an awesome museum, despite the fact that I was so tired after the bus journey that I fell asleep in it. Twice. (Seriously, how many museums have multiple spaces where they intend for you to lie down and stare at the ceiling? That’s just asking for it as far as I’m concerned). There are plenty of English explanations, and interactive exhibits for kids, although a lot of it (especially in the space section) went straight over my head. Either I’ve forgotten a lot since school or Japanese children are vastly more intelligent than English children. Probably both.

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After appreciating the simple genius inventions in this country I was fascinated to learn about other new technology that I wasn’t aware of, or things that haven’t been introduced on a wide scale yet. Some bright spark has invented flooring that generates electricity when people walk on it, and given the swarms that pass through the Tokyo subway I reckon they could easily power my hometown with one station.

And yes, the rush hours are just as insane as you’ve been led to believe. Closest I’ve been pressed against another human body since I waved goodbye to my boyfriend.

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The star attraction of the museum, introducing the robot section, is Asimo by Honda. I’ve seen photos of Asimo before but I’m not sure I’ve seen him/her/it run. The performers in Gear in Kyoto kept running across the stage in an awkward bent kneed rocking motion and I was thinking ‘why do they think robots run like that?’ Well, now I know. Because they do. And honestly it’s quite adorable. If you see it in the flesh (for want of a better expression), you won’t be able to resist giving him a round of applause, like a performing seal.

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These robots on the other hand, not so adorable. They are programmed to respond to voices by turning towards you and nodding. It’s creepy as hell.

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This was… strange. Apparently it was tracking our movements to make music or something. I didn’t really hear the music change all that much so I’m not sure what we were supposed to be doing. Oh well, I was feeling tired and killing time until my planetarium ticket became valid and I could go to sleep again.

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In case you’re in need of more futuristic weirdness, just down the road in front of a shopping mall is a giant light up Gundam statue. (apparently the mini one I found in Shanghai was a ‘goddamn Chinese ripoff’, so hopefully I score points back for finding this one).  I’m told this is lifesize. Frankly I think lifesize is a ridiculous adjective to attach to something that doesn’t exist in life, but this is not a land where you argue with people’s obsessions.

That about finishes my sightseeing in Tokyo sadly, aside from tomorrow’s shameful confession. I had planned to go to the Ghibli museum as well but fell foul to plan-as-you-go failures again as I didn’t book from my home country, and once I got here it was all sold out. Oh well, next time.

I did at least get to see the cherry blossoms in Yoyogi park. I’d heard about the hanami (literally looking at flowers) parties, but nothing can prepare you for the madness until you see it.

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It seems like everyone in the city has time off work to go and sit under the trees and drink beer. It’s basically a blossom based excuse for a festival, and it’s brilliant. Can we have this in England please? Not many cherry trees I know, but maybe we could have country wide daffodil parties. Could someone please work on making this a thing before I get back?

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