A Museum from the Future called Miraikan
A friend from the hostel recommended this museum to me after his visit and I thank him for doing so as it turned out to be a great experience! The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation or just Miraikan, should be a must for anyone with at least a passing interest in new technology and science and its actually a good break from the bustling shopping and sights of the Tokyo city.
As you arrive you are faced with a sleek curved glass-fronted facade that’s modern, appealing, and dare I say it, futuristic. Pretty apt for a museum designed to showcase the future. Although, the building looks huge from outside you’ll realise that inside can be a bit sparse and the exhibits themselves are rather smaller than expected, so do not plan too much time at this attraction like I did. You do not have to understand Japanese to enjoy the museum as the exhibits are in both Japanese and English, but not in other languages. So if you read all the descriptions and try everything out, expect to take about 2-3 hours. It’s not the biggest museum but unlike most science museums it documents and demonstrates technology currently being developed rather than providing an account of the history of science.
Each exhibit trails the frontiers of particular scientific or technological areas including neuroscience, the Internet, genetics, space etc. Those in the permanent exhibition has a hands-on element which would provide something for those that can’t be bothered to read, or for children. However I would recommend trying to visit on a weekday when the place is likely to be quieter. I found it great to be able to stroll around the place without being annoyed by screaming children or pushy parents from past experiences in other Japanese museums.
What did I like? Well To start, take an amazing look at the built “Kuratas” which is the first gigantic boardable robot in Japan (and the world, too, perhaps?). Kuratas looks almost human with his face and body with four legs and two arms and – of course – the cockpit where the robot can be controlled manually or even with an iPhone. It was listed at the time of my visit as a special exhibit which means that for current readers im not sure is still in the museum.
The other star attraction of Miraikan (which by the way is free for all to view) is the Geo-Cosmos. Glowing beautifully in the darkness, the Geo-Cosmos, which is 6 meters in diameter — about one-two-millionth the size of the actual Earth — looks very much like the image we are so used to of our planet as seen from space. On its screens, content acquired from scientists and research institutes from around the world is displayed or in another words, the images of the clouds for example on the globe reflect the everyday image data taken by the weather satellites. Amazing right? but what amazes me even more is the fact that with the Geo-Cosmos you can see the current image of Earth that changes every minute, and what your Earth will look like in the future. There are many ways to enjoy the Geo-Cosmos. A wide spiralling stairway all around it provides you with an opportunity to admire the globe with a 360 degree vantage point. It’s a thoughtful design which anchors the Geo-Cosmos as part of the building – it’s essentially the heart of Miraikan in which everything else emanates from.
My personal favorite is Honda’s ASIMO which is probably the main highlight of the museum. I just got there in time to watch the performance of the worlds most advanced humanoid robot and it was super crowded (This was the only exhibit where there was crowded, the rest of the museum was relatively quiet), so try and get there earlier in time for the 11 and 2pm shows. It was pretty a jaw dropping session for as its simply overwhelming. Throughout the performance you basically see ASIMO moving around and demonstrate his human skills. From walking to running, climbing to descending, the bending and twisting of its torso, carrying a tray, playing around kicking a ball and the overall synchronization with humans makes ASIMO such a privileged to watch and im just so lucky!
You should also try out the “Songs of Anagura” exhibit – it’s all about spatial information science but engages visitors by getting you to “log in” as you enter the exhibit and then tracks you by shining a funky, cartoon-image light onto the floor around you as you move around the exhibit. Funky music, which you yourself initiate, is played throughout the exhibit at a particular stage in the process.
So to wrap up from the live performance by Honda’s famous ASIMO robot, to hands on displays demonstrating the concepts behind quantum mechanics, robotic surgery and the International Space State, I can say that Miraikan is a great place to get acquainted with the absolute cutting edge of technology and scientific discover.
While its far from being perfect and cannot compare with some other science museums in the world in terms of size, it’s an excellent option if you are around Odaiba. It approaches modern science in a different way and offers something none of the more traditional science and science history museums do.
Admission: 600 Yen (Adult) – 18 years old and under 200 Yen – Free Admission for 18 years old and under on Saturday. Extra fee for special exhibition.
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (16:30 last admission time)
Closed: Tuesdays (except national holidays and seasonal holidays), New year’s holidays.