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Is it a building…or a giant spaceship? You decide.

The first thing you’ll notice about Tokyo’s National Museum of Science and Emerging Innovation (known in Japanese as, “Miraikan,” or “future building”) is that it looks as if rendered from someone’s sci-fi pipe dream. And not the tacky-but-lovable Tomorrowland type, either–it almost looks like a spaceship just docked there on the street, tantalizing scientific secrets held within. I have to say that the inside is even more impressive.

On top of the world…well, next to it, anyway

Walk inside, and you’ll see a huge globe called a GeoScope…it actually shows what’s happening to the Earth in real time, everything from weather conditions to the day/night cycle, etc. It was definitely the coolest thing in the museum, for me anyway. Apparently they can adjust it to show various temperatures and such for presentations on global warming–don’t take my word for it, I didn’t actually see one.

I wonder how many channels you could get on this thing

From a little research station off to the side, they can control what’s shown on every square inch of the globe–see how it’s made of little TVs? I guess you could hit people with some pretty heavy advertising if you wanted to, but because it is a science museum after all, I guess they showed pretty good judgment in not doing that!

Asimo isn’t ready for the Olympics, but he’s quite spry

Speaking of ads, because Honda sponsors the museum, their magical demo-bot Asimo (you’ve seen him in a million TV spots) does apparently make appearances from time to time. He wasn’t there the last time I went. I guess even robots deserve a vacation. I did see a scooter thingy that could stay upright and move forward/backward just by subtle movements of the body, though.

Something was lost in translation here…

If you speak into that horn-like thing, these androids are supposed to change their movements and/or facial expressions as a sign of having understood…or something. This is one of those exhibits where my Japanese wife and I were both confused, so it wasn’t only a language thing. This was interesting, but I couldn’t really figure it out.

Oooh, aliens! Sorry, but I’m a big sci-fi/possibility of real aliens somewhere guy, and I really wanted to see this exhibit. Sadly, that was not to be. But at least we have the photos to prove that it…the exhibit, not aliens…did actually exist.

This first cute-kid-actually-learning-something photo should distract you from the above

This second cute kid photo should wipe your memories of it completely

There are many exhibits incorporating pop culture, but just as many that emphasize hands-on scientific learning without all the fuss. I found staff members at Miraikan to be very knowledgeable and able to talk with children and adults alike about the things going on around them. Not to mention that they knew how to have fun!

This guy’s brain is just bursting with cool ideas…or he’s standing in front of something cool, either way

Since Miraikan is a research museum where you can literally watch scientists at work studying various problems and their solutions, it seems no wonder that it has the word “future” in its name. The edges of the scientific frontier are always growing–hopefully the museum can continue growing with it.

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