Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Toshiba Science Center

One thing just leads to another. In this case, when I was in the lobby of the TEPCO electricity museum, I found a brochure for two other science places - one was in Ueno park, which is a bit too far to travel to just for that, and is currently highlighting a history of electricity exhibit similar to TEPCO's; and the other is Toshiba's science center. The Toshiba center is one building within their R&D complex, and is located along the Tamagawa river where highway 1 crosses it. It's about halfway between the Kawasaki art museum in Todoroki (where the Shonen Sunday and Magazine exhibit was held) and the TEPCO museum. Which makes it about 30 minutes from the apartment by bike (actually, it came out closer to 40 minutes this time because Japan's in the middle of a newly-created 1-week holiday called Silver Week, and hundreds of people had gone out along the river for picnics and baseball games, turning the bike path into an obstacle course).

The first floor of the science center has a small cafe (no gift shop, though), and some exhibits on electricity, magnetism, nuclear power and Toshiba's new maglev train propulsion system. Almost half of the exhibits were out of commission for one reason or another. Fortunately, the Van de Graaff generator room was working. They have demonstrations every hour, and I'd stuck around long enough to catch one. It's essentially a matter of standing in an electrically isolated room, touching the generator, and having your hair stand up on end. I don't have enough hair to make it interesting for me to do this, but it was fun watching other people doing it.

The second floor contained exhibits on Toshiba's laptop and notebook PCs, solid state hard drives, fuel cells and flat screen TVs. In one room, children received balloon animals and adults were able to participate in the new motion capture system (you stand in front of a green screen and your movements translate into a video game character's combat against an oversized monster). Another computer/camera setup allows the operator to apply virtual makeup and hairstyles to let you see what they'd look like on you before shelling out money for them.


(Detail at base of clock)

Also on the second floor were some wind up dolls that either inspired Gakken's upper-end series, or were the Gakken kits themselves. The dolls included the arrow shooting boy, the tumbling man, and the tea cup carrying boy. Unfortunately, they were behind glass and I couldn't watch them in action.

(Tea cup carrier and the Somersaulting doll)

The third floor showed medical equipment in use, including sonograms, MRI scanners and other stuff. They also had examples of light bulbs dating back from the 1800's to modern-day LED bulbs, antique clocks, and more windup dolls. Part of the floor had 2 employees refurbing some laptops, but that area got closed off at 3 PM before I had a chance to learn more about it.

(Arrow shooting doll)

While I was there, an international student tour group came through wearing bright orange vests for easy identification. They looked to be mostly high school students from India.

I had fun on the third floor, and while watching the Van de Graaff generator. I don't think the Toshiba center is worth coming in from Chiba to visit, but if you're in Kawasaki I recommend it. I should also mention that the receptionists can speak some English, and the center's brochures are in both English and Japanese.

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