Sunday, December 16, 2007

Trip to Japan Part VI

After the relaxed time my wife and had had the day before, we decided to make one last big excursion into Tokyo. Our destination… Ueno Park. It’s a popular area with museums and cherry trees among other things. After the hustle and bustle of the Ueno station, it’s a huge busy place, it was nice to walk into the wide open space of the park. As there are many things to see and do in Ueno Park we came with a specific goal of going to the Treasures of the Tokugawa exhibit (since closed) at the Tokyo National Museum. But wouldn’t you know it on the way there my SO spied a poster for The Great Robot Exhibition at the National Museum Nature and Science. We checked our watch, and figured we had enough time to for this as well.

My ticket for The Great Robot Exhibition

The exhibit was a showcase of current robots, past automatons, and futuristic designs from comics and film, basically it was a celebration of Japanese robots both real and imagined. After entering and walking by an impressive display of Gundam toys, we came into large room with many displays but what immediately caught my attention was a live presentation. Now the robot they were showing off wasn’t very impressive, the poor guy who built it, couldn’t get it to work, but the gal helping him threw me for a loop. See, she was crouching there and her ass was hanging out! Here was this huge family-like crowed with bright lights and a near full moon was on stage. This was rather surprising because Japanese folks tend to be very careful about covering themselves up. Standing where I was, there was a great view so it wasn’t surprising that a rather large group had developed. I managed to get a shot of the scene with my camera though I wasn’t allowed to use a flash and I had to zoom in, but you get the idea. The ass gal

After the butt shot I got back why I came and began exploring the various robots. The early clockwork automatons, called karakuri ningyo were very impressive. I was especially fond of the tea servers, as I had seen them before on the history channel. The other displays had both real and imaginary robots side by side. I got excited about one in particular, it was a model of Astro Boy (Atomic Boy) along with two pages of actual Astro Boy manga art by Osamu Tezuka himself. I was so into looking at the inked strokes and lines on the pages that I didn’t realize I’d placed my hand on the case and an attendant had to come over to and tell me to “not touch.” I was so into it in fact that I totally forgot to take picture. One of the things I do remember though was that the paper had turned yellow but the paint used for corrections was still very white. The strokes and line work were just perfect though, and if I had only seen this and nothing else it would have been completely worth it.

3 robots including Doremon

A robot suit for disabled folks

A robot for dancing

Mazenger Z

Here’s Asimo. You probably have seen him on the news. For this robot they had a big production where he performed all kinds of tasks for a family of four, like learning a dance and setting up a table for a meal. His movements were impressive, very smooth and near lifelike.

After the Great Robot Exhibit we headed over to the Tokyo National Museum, which I had been to on past trips to Japan to see their regular exhibitions. The Treasures of the Tokugawa exhibit was incredible with all manner of kimonos, mother of pearl furniture and gold treasures but alas no picture taking was allowed. I got quite overheated as I did with the Chōjū-giga exhibit but I still I was able to look over the heads of the crowds. Of course the armor (I’m always surprised how small they are) and swords were very remarkable as was the first Clock in Japan (a gift from the Portuguese), but what really affected me the most for some strange reason were two documents. The first was the one that officially established the Tokugawa government under Tokugawa Ieyasu and the second was the document that dissolved the Shogunate in 1868. That’s 264 years of Japanese history on two pieces of paper… …Amazing. We bought a book with photographs of the collection but we decided to give it to my in-laws instead as a thank you for everything they provided for us on this trip. Going to two very different, yet very Japanese exhibits made me think up a phrase that sums up modern Japanese culture in my mind: In Japan the Future is now, but the Past is present. I refer to this part of our trip as Shoguns and Robots.Tokyo National Museum
Ticket for Treasures of the Tokugawa

It was twilight when my SO and I left the Tokyo National Museum. We decided to check out Ameyoko a bazaar-like shopping district close to Ueno. We trotted around the seemingly endless market until we came to my wife’s favorite store Niki No Kashi. It’s candy shop that sells sweets in bulk but not in the orgy sizes like Costco. My wife discovered it many years ago when she worked in Tokyo. We grabbed all manner of goodies including a box of Apple Kit Kats. Then it happened, I stumbled across my favorite candy in the whole world… Tropifrutti. The German gummy candy maker HARIBO makes it. Unlike most of their products such as Happy-Cola and Goldbären, Tropifrutti is not sold in the states or least I’ve never seen it. I developed a taste for it when I was in Germany in the 1990s. Tropifrutti has wonderful soft texture that’s not too chewy and has an amazing combination of flavors (Banana, Pineapple, Strawberry, Tangerine, Passion Fruit, Mango, and Kiwi to name a few of them). I love this stuff so much I keep the empty bags just so I can smell ‘em to remind myself what Tropifrutti tastes like. It’s my Crack. I still have one bag left…
The outer edge of Ameyoko from Ueno Park

A street in Ameyoko

As it was nighttime, we took a train back to Omiya for a late dinner with an old girlfriend chum of my SO. We had a nice time and the restaurant staff had a great time as well watching me bump into things and hit my head because the place was so tiny. After our meal my wife and I took a taxi back to her parents house. I think I was finally starting to adjust to Japan-time, which was a shame because the next day was my last full day in the Land of the Rising Sun.



Don Snabulus said...

Cool robot display. It would be fun to see Asimo live.

You packed a lot into a short time. Like the Pacific Islander blog, I find myself wanting to go back to Japan to see these things (or new things in the case of rotating museum exhibits).

Swinebread said...

snab - I wish I had had time to more research but it was off we go. We did see a lot for such a short time, you're right.

Dean Wormer said...

Those robots are so damned cool. The Japanese are light years ahead of us in that technology and it really is the wave of the future.

Although I plan on purchasing an American vacuum robot from irobot in the next year.

Swinebread said...

The Japanese just have a passion for robots the the rest of get to enjoy.

Becca said...

Doremon and Asimo! Coolest post ever!

Swinebread said...

Thanks, It sure was a lot of fun!

Pandabonium said...

Very cool. The robots are amazing, but I have to say I've never understood Japan's fixation with the humanoid form. Task specific (or multi task) robots like they use in labs or assembly lines for speed and/or safety reasons make a lot of sense to me, but making a robot look somewhat human seems an awkward way to go about getting things done.

Still a fascinating exhibit. The Tokugawa treasures would be great to see as well.

Swinebread said...

panda - I'm not sure either, that's a tough one. If I had a better grasp of Japanese culture maybe I could answer that. Hmm could it be something to do with following orders? I dunno' it's great for pop culture though, if for nothing else.