Mini Japan Trip 2009

December 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Posted in General, Japan, museum, Out and About, Tourism, Travel | 1 Comment
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I relocated to the UK a few years ago, coming via Japan. At the time I did a bunch of touristy things.

This trip is only brief (with only 1 non airport related day) and so I spent most of the time hanging out with a few friends. Part of which was a return to Kamakura and the not so nearby – unless you have a car – Restaurant Marlowe. Which offers a range of interesting custard and non-custard cakes. The green tea one had a strong after taste of tea and the other flavours around the table were equally nice. The restaurant has a clear view over the Pacific and on a warm day you’d be able to sit outside and enjoy the moment.

All this eating and commuting didn’t stop me adding a few new additions to the list.

Miraikan – The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation – This is one seriously cool museum. At least for the geeky amongst us. If you’re interested in health, food, robotics, the environment, space or new materials they’ve got you covered and there are probably other things I’m missing. These permanent exhibits cost 600Y and there is an additional fee for any other exhibitions.

There are lots of hands on activities but this could pose a problem during peak hours as I could imagine people getting frustrated at not getting the chance to play.

The information panels are almost all bilingual (Japanese and English) so learning could never be easier. Having said that I did not get the most out of this visit because I’d come straight after dropping my bags after a long sleepless night. So fatigue was definitely affecting my care factor. Nonetheless I could definitely see the value of this museum and all of the cool future tech.

Take the Yurikamome line (790Y one-way) from Shimbashi station and cross over the Rainbow Bridge (which also affords a nice view of the city).  About 15 minutes later you’ll get to the Telecom Center station and a 5 minute walk will have you at the museum. Unfortunately there’s not much else around (other than the Maritime Science museum that I didn’t go to), so if you’re pressed for time you may have to miss this one.

Mori Art Museum – is located in the new gleaming mixed use complex Roppongi Hills. Entry is 1500Y (varies on the exhibit) which is a bit pricey for an art gallery that is until you realise that you now have access to an almost 360 degree view of the city. It’s a magnificent vista with the chance to look out over the bay, the diminutive Tokyo Tower and Mount Fuji to name but a few highlights. Of course this will be influenced by the weather and the pollution levels.

For an additional 300Y you can go outside but unfortunately I was running a touch late so forgo this. I’m still quite happy with my view from the inside – except for the glare on a few pics.

The gallery itself has a rotating collection of special exhibits. Rather humourously when I visited they were looking at medicine and art, which included a large number of items on loan from London’s Science Museum and Wellcome Collection! So I’d had the chance to see many of these before. Did I get the most value for my money, probably not but you probably will. Make the most of it and grab a drink at the bar (no idea of the price – sorry!) and enjoy the view!

General Nogi’s Residence – One reason I was a bit pressed for time at the Mori building was because on my walk there I stumbled across the shrine for General Nogi (and his wife). They committed ritual suicide on the day of the Emperor’s funeral in 1912. The grounds are relatively small but well tended and it’s a nice break from the surrounding city.

All in all a quick and tiring (jet lag related) trip but it was good to come back, it felt almost natural and certainly great to see friends again!

Tokyo photos at Flickr.

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February Lates Roundup 2009

March 3, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Posted in General, London, museum, Natural History Museum, Out and About, Science Museum, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Last week was the end of February and that means it was time to revisit South Kensington and its museums for another round of Late night madness.

First up on Wednesday was the Science Museum. I did in fact come despite protestations last time that I wouldn’t come back for a while out of increasing boredom. Word of the event has definitely increased as there were more people than ever including some of my friends and so I thought I’d come again.

Rant – Only one major one, please keep the bars in the same location. Every time I come they’re in a different spot. January when the two were on either side of the ramp was perfect!

Anti-rant – As always there were loads of night only activities including a silent disco (the line was quite long so we didn’t partake but clearly popular) and a DJ in Launchpad – this was the first time I’ve seen people dancing there! I was also thrilled to see that most of the museum was open, including an “astronaut” giving a talk in the space section. Hopefully, future events will see even more of the galleries open. Very popular and enjoyable evening.

Science Museum Lates Feb 09 (2) Science Museum Lates Feb 09 (7)

Friday saw the double Lates of the Victoria and Albert and Natural History Museum. First up was the V&A.

Rant – My rant is basically bar based. The beverages were small and expensive. For example a beer costs almost £4, for about half a pint in a plastic cup, whereas at the Science Museum it’s £3 for a glass bottle of Asahi. Lastly, you can only drink (or eat) in the entry area. So assuming you can wait through the line to get to the bar you’ll have to stand around for a while before you can even get into the museum. I understand that the museum might be concerned about the safety of their pieces. Understandable but if that’s the issue either don’t have a bar or allow people to drink in the galleries but put restrictions on which ones they can go in.

Anti-rant – The activities on offer were excellent. My highlight for the night was a murder mystery where you had to follow a route and gather clues. It was really well devised as the route took you through most parts of the museum and past many other events that you could stop off on before completing your quest. Another fun activity was creating collages that represent us. The hall was filled with people, magazines, glue and scissors all embracing a child like joy at this arts and crafts. Despite my reservations about the bar (best to drink before hand) we all had an excellent time at our first V&A Lates -well recommended!

V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (2) V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (4)

The V&A closes just before 10 and luckily the Natural History Museum stays open until 10:30 so we headed over there to continue the frivolity.

Rant – Granted we got there at 10 but it appeared none of the standard galleries were open, the exception being the ticketed events. In addition unlike the other museums there were no special activities on and when I asked at the information desk the attendant looked at me blankly at such an odd request.

Anti-Rant – The museum offers a wider selection of beverages (including sparkling) compared to the other museums. While the exhibits weren’t open it was still an atmospheric experience to sip drinks under the giant brontosaurus skeleton in the main hall. A nice late event but not essential, probably best to do at the beginning/end of the night, certainly don’t base your evening around it.

V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (20) V&A and Natural History Museum Lates (21)

Science Museum Lates – January 2009

January 29, 2009 at 1:08 am | Posted in General, museum, Out and About, UK | Leave a comment
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I came back to the Science Museum for its second Late night event – now on monthly – this time with the old Angel crowd.  This month was Japanese themed. It definitely seemed busier than last time with the queue stretching around the building although it moved reasonably quickly once the doors opened. However, there was quite a bit of congestion around the Underground entrance as the two masses collided.

Science Lates (2)  Science Lates (6)

Some of the specific events on offer were the Taiko Meantime drummers who performed along the glass bridge in the centre of the museum. They only performed once at the beginning of the night (albeit for 45mins), they then conducted drum lessons with the volunteers performing later in the evening.

Science Lates (9) Science Lates (7) Science Lates (40)

Short kendo performances (3x 15mins) were also on offer but we missed these (the room was changed but we missed the notification – assuming there was one).

Lunar views from the Japanese Kaguya satellite were being shown in the Ground Floor theatre. We stayed inside for about 10 minutes. It was interesting but not as fascinating as I’d expected, I don’t know what I expected the lunar surface to look like. The Earth sets and rises were quite cool and worth it.

The Japan Car exhibit which highlights the changing technology in he Japanese car industry to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly. Honestly, I’m not into cars so I found it less than spectacular and wouldn’t have paid for entry. This was the only exhibit with a cost, although you could get a discounted 2 for 1. Luckily, as a meetup member who rsvp’d to the ScienceLates event I managed to get a couple of free tickets from Peers the organiser. Another great benefit of the exhibit were the complimentary beer per ticket at the end of the exhibit. Made it all worthwhile.

Origami skills were on display in the computer hall. There were explanations for the standard designs like the crane, frog, rose and box but there were also more elaborate origami being created and on display.

Science Lates (44) Science Lates (42) Science Lates (23) Science Lates (24)

When we first entered the future music room I had no idea what was going on I just heard some electronic style music with a cluster of people in one corner. According to Tim there were some light boards, which produced the sound once touched. It’s via Tenori-on a digital instrument – watch a display at YouTube.

Science Lates (17) Science Lates (18)

Dance Dance Revolution competition on the ground floor for only a pound. If you’ve never heard of it before (really?) here’s an example.

Science Lates (21)

Once again the top floor’s Launchpad was a hit with lots of hands on science. I didn’t see as many volunteer explainers but I could have just been unobservant.

Science Lates (37) Science Lates (38)

Overall, the night was a lot of fun and I’d encourage you to go to the next one. Depending on the special events I might have to give it a miss for a few months because there’s only so many times you can shock yourself before it gets a little repetitive.

Science Lates (30)

Still very fun! Good work and the bars as ever were popular!

Science Lates (32)

More photos at Flickr.

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