Step out of your comfort zone and become a “poop” being flushed down the toilet or bypass medical school and diagnose an illness based on abnormalities in the body. These are just two of the many fun and interesting activities that can be engaged with at Miraikan, the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation 「日本科学未来館」.
Miraikan is located in Odaiba 「お台場」, which is a business, residential, and entertainment district in Tokyo 「東京」. This museum is unique in that it does not present narratives about the history of science but focuses on cutting-edge science and technology instead. Themes covered in the permanent exhibits include the Earth’s environment, space and time, robots and the internet, and the brain. Many of the exhibits are interactive. For example, visitors can touch a robotic seal and try to get it to make sounds or disassemble a plastic head in order to view the brain. In addition, there are special exhibitions presented throughout the year that differ from the permanent exhibits.
A sleek glass structure, modern and futuristic in appearance, houses Miraikan. Walk into an immense entrance hall that extends all the way up to the entire height of the six floors that make up the museum: permanent galleries are located on the 5th and 6th floors and 2-D and 3-D films are shown in the spherical dome theatre on the 6th floor.
These are the permanent exhibitions in Miraikan:
- TSUNAGARI 「つながり」
- Explore the Frontiers 「世界をさぐる」:
This zone explores the question “Why are we here now?”
|The Universe| 「宇宙」
-The Expanse of Space- 「空間のひろがり」
Provides the most current information about space including answers to “When was space born?” and “Are there any limits to space?”
-Challenging Space: Large Telescopes- 「巨大望遠鏡で宇宙の謎に挑む」
The large-scale optical-infrared telescope, Subaru Telescope, is featured here.
-Study of Elementary Particles and the Universe with a Particle Accelerator- 「加速器で探る素粒子と宇宙」
A particle accelerator, which is a cutting edge experimental device, is used in an attempt to answer the question “What are things made of?”
-Neutrino Observations- 「ニュートリノの観測」
Devices used to detect neutrinos are displayed.
-This is ISS, go ahead- 「こちら、国際宇宙ステーション」
Learn about the International Space Station (ISS) and how humans can live there.
|The Earth| 「地球」
-The Earth Seen from the Deep Sea- 「深海から見た地球」
The phenomena and systems in the deep seas (deeper than 200m) are explored.
-System of the Earth Revealed by Deep Sea Drilling- 「深海掘削からわかる地球のしくみ」
The origin of life and how huge earthquakes take place can be studied by deep sea drilling.
-The K-T boundary in Cuba- 「キューバのK-T境界層」
This looks at the K-T boundary in Cuba to learn about the changes that happened at the end of the age of the dinosaurs.
-The High Sensitivity Simopraph Network Japan- 「高感度地震観測網」
Visitors can look at the depth of the epicenters of earthquakes in 3-D.
|Earth Environment| 「地球環境」
-Earth Environment and Me- 「地球環境とわたし」
The notable degree of change affecting global environment is presented with scientific and technological based solutions.
|Our Solar System| 「太陽系」
-LE-7A Engine- 「LE-7Aロケットエンジン」
The actual engine, which produces 3.18 million horsepower, is exhibited along with videos.
-The Probe Plan for the Moon and the Planets- 「月・惑星探査計画」
Prototype equipment to explore Mercury and Venus is displayed.
-The Genome- 「ゲノム」
Find out where and how the genome exist in the body, and about their roles.
-Stories of One, Everyone, and You- 「ぼくとみんなとそしてきみ ―未来をつくりだすちから」
Through neuroscience, primatology, and cognitive science this exhibit examines the nature of ‘the human as a living organism.’
-Promoting Medicine Together- 「ともに進める医療」
Diagnose illnesses at the molecular level, learn about advanced medical imaging devices, be introduced to primal therapy and what the future holds in store for medicine.
- Create your Future 「未来をつくる」:
This zone explores the question “How should humans apply and evolve sustainable prosperity?”
-The Drive Force of Innovation- 「技術革新の原動力」
“Creativity” is examined as the driving force of innovative technology.
-Lifestyle 2050- 「2050年くらしのかたち」
Walk through a future city, become a citizen of this future city by suggesting ways to improve the city, receive a Resident card, a list of “Waza cards” that describe cutting-edge technology, and a Growth Graph of the city.
-A Hands-On Model of the Internet- 「インターネット物理モデル」
Use white and black balls in a simplified model to learn how messages are transmitted from computers and mobile phones.
|Digital Expression| 「デジタル表現」
-Laboratory for New Media- 「メディアラボ」
Prevent the spread of infectious diseases, unlock the secrets of the brain, reveal the ‘ultra’ abilities of bat sonar, plan a treatment schedule, detect early warning signals of complex diseases, forecast aftershocks, and synchronize with fireflies.
-Tearoom of Zero/One- 「零壱庵」
Watch Kodomoroid, a teleoperated android robot who resembles a human child, give news reports in different voices and languages. This android announcer has “potential exceeding that of its human equivalent” according to Miraikan’s website.
-Robot World- 「ロボットワールド」
The leading humanoid robots are featured at this exhibition. It is amazing to watch ASIMO 「アシモ」, perhaps one of the best known humanoid robot, run, dance, and speak. If ASIMO was developed to be of service to humans, Paro’s purpose is therapeutic: to be comforting and to be enjoyed. Inter-robot reacts to the voice of a human by nodding and gesturing. This communication system promotes a feeling of unity between a human and a robot.
-Android: What is Human?- 「アンドロイド ― 人間って、なんだ？」
If I were to walk past Otonaroid 「オトナロイド」, the teleoperated android robot in this exhibition, in a crowded restaurant, I would not realize that she was not human. Otonaroid was created to look like an Asian adult female. According to the museum’s website, she was “hired by the Miraikan as a robot science communicator.”
|Information Society| 「情報社会」
-Songs of ANAGURA-
Nina, a fellow Tomodachi Inouye scholar, agreed with me that this was one of the most enjoyable exhibits at Miraikan. We were fortunate to be able to view this exhibition because we obtained tickets an hour in advance. This exhibit is about spatial information science. A computer collects data from the visitors and uses the information to track you as you move about in space. Participants receive their own cartoon-image light bubble which follows them within the exhibit. A handshake between animated spotlights would occur if the spotlights were within close proximity to each other. Based on your movements in the exhibit, your very own song is generated which is where part of the title of this exhibit comes from.
This is the special exhibit that was at the museum on August 6, 2014:
-Toilet!? Human Waste and Earth’s Future 「トイレ？行っトイレ！― ボクらのうんちと地球のみらい」-
Getting people to talk about the toilet and feces was the focus of this exhibit. There were かわいい/“kawaii”/cute characters such as Toile-no-suke 「トイレの助」, Toilet Boy 「ブリットくん」, and different areas to engage in within the exhibition. Visitors could view cutting-edge Japanese toilets with lids that automatically open and come equipped with self cleaning functions.
This is a summary of the various areas in this exhibit:
Area 1: Visitors could observe the feces of different animals and discuss gut flora.
Area 2: The idea that the bathroom is not only a space for excretion is examined here.
Area 3: Visitors go down a toilet slide and experience the world beyond the toilet.
Area 4: Here we see toilets in spacecrafts and learn about the research on toilets that make food from human waste!
Area 5: What kind of toilets can make everyone happy? Examine displays explaining problems involving toilets.
Visitors are treated to a song sung by the toilet about its feelings in the final area!
To say that our experience at Miraikan was extraordinary is an understatement. The exhibits gave us a picture of true cutting-edge science and technology. That this was the case only reinforces how the value system, beliefs, and customs of the people of Japan drive their success, especially in these fields. Their work ethic is strong; they believe in hard work and are completely dedicated to providing the best quality possible. The Japanese people are rooted in a value system that stresses team spirit and social responsibility. They believe in working together for the betterment of society. Hawaii is unique to the United States in that the population is multicultural with many tracing their ancestors to Asia. With the advent of immigrants from countries such as Japan, China, and the Philippines, much of the population adopted customs and value systems from each ethnic group. They learned that the native Hawaiians lived a life guided by “The Aloha Spirit.” To live with aloha means to be in unity with yourself and others. It means to be humble, respectful, and practice patient perseverance. Like the people of Japan and their use of science and technology to preserve the environment, the way of aloha also teaches that we should cherish and protect the land. The ethics of the people of Japan and Hawaii’s spirit of aloha is a bridge that connects us. Perhaps that can rank as one of the “best technologies of all.”