Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Christmas in Tokyo: Ueno

The first hotel we stayed at was in Ueno, "the cultural center of Tokyo." Ueno's main attractions (several temples and other old structures, various museums, and the zoo) were all located in one big park (Ueno park) next to the station, making them all easy to get to, but hard to decide where we wanted to go (we could have easily spent a couple days just going to the museums).

We discovered a free English tour guide service, and a nice woman gave us a personal tour of the park (no one else showed up). We learned about the battle that took place there a century and a half ago and saw a temple gate perforated with holes from bullets and cannon balls.

At the museum of Western art we saw a great exhibit of Edvard Munch paintings, and several Rodin sculptures, including one of the three original casts of his Gates of Hell.

The museum of science featured a special "Robot" exhibit that had, among many others, a robot that you could ballroom dance with and a robot that played the theme song to "Totoro" on a trumpet. They also had a display of "old-fashioned" robots, containing gears and springs instead of microchips. These were some of the most impressive, I thought. There was one, a delicate-looking painted Buddha-like doll with a calm pleasant smile, that could draw an arrow from a nearby quiver, leisurely nock it to his bow, and release it, hitting the center of a target. The highlight, however, had to be Asimo, Honda Motor Company's talking, walking humanoid robot, who was apparently designed for the sole purpose of getting his groove on:

OK, he also walked, ran, served coffee, and kicked soccer balls. Just imagine, in the future we won't need to bother with such menial tasks because we will just get a million-dollar robot to do them for us! And just like all Japanese robots, he spoke with that abrasively high, childlike voice that is the standard for all female customer service workers and public announcers in Japan, presumably because it sounds polite and nonthreatening. We can rest assured that these robots will never turn against their masters and enslave us all, because they all sound like three-year-olds.

The zoo was fun. It wasn't markedly different from zoos in the states. Here are some highlights (Thanks goes to Jon for the photos):

I especially like the last one of the seal. There's just something very human about the way he's leaning against the wall with his head cocked, like a guy soaking in a jacuzzi.


Sean said...

Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto!

I like the post!

Sukiko said...

You definitely are related to that turtle...

Anonymous said...

It was great to see the updates on your BLOG. Hopefully we will get to see some Tokyo highlights next summer some time.


Katie said...

that seal is SO FUNNY!!!