Wednesday, July 30, 2014

National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

Wow...what an exciting title, and, I'm sure you're thinking, "Oh, just another science museum."  Oh ho ho!  No way my friends!  This science museum (which, I've heard is actually a great, and fairly cheap, way to spend an afternoon if you're in Tokyo) is hosting a special exhibit from now until October 5th,'s the "Toilet!? Human Waste & Earth's Future" exhibit...or, as we like to call it, The Poop Museum!!  So, come with us and find out what happens to the "kids" before, during, and after you drop them off at "the pool".

FYI:  If you have a weak stomach or can't handle a lot of "poopy" talk....just close this blog now.  :)

Just a few quick details about the trip:
-We took the 0905 train from Yokosuka Chuo to Fune-nokagakukan (making a transfer at Shimbashi) and arrived around 1030.
-Museum hours:  1000-1700
-Admission fee:  we paid just under 1,000 Yen for each adult, and just under 500 Yen for 6 y.o. and up.  We had enough in our group to qualify for the discounted group rates.  That price got us into the Science museum as well as the special exhibit the fun stuff!   When we stepped of the train at Fune-nokagakukan we got our first view of what we were in for...yes, folks, that's a poop water fountain that those people are playing under.  This whole area had rides and things to do, but that wasn't on our agenda today.  Note:  I'm still pretty new to this camera and, genius me, I still had it set for shooting fireworks.  Soooo...the first few shots are pretty washed out.   
We got to the museum just before 1100.  The walk from the train station to the museum didn't take long.  It's almost a straight shot.  Here's a {washed out} shot of the building.  It has a pretty streamlined front...and a massive line to get in!  We stood in line for quite a bit.  At least we were in the shade.
 Just before we entered the building we stopped to get a picture with our wonderful "Feces Ambassador".  Say...cheese (?)...everyone.
When we entered the special exhibit we looked up to see the world...with moving clouds and everything!  There were many people laid back on the soft benches watching the clouds pass by.

 The toilet on the left is decorated with around 72,000 crystal rhinestones.  The golden throne on the right says it is the world's #1 toilet.  A little language lesson for you today...."benjo" is the word for "toilet", and it literally means "a place for receiving news."  I have to say, every Japanese person I've run into has said "toilet".
We presented our tickets and then chose a restroom door.  Garytt picked the first door.  Mackenzie and I squeezed through the middle door and into a fascinating world of poop, where we will learn that "defacation is proof of life...Let's contemplate the toilet, the 'small hole that opens out into the world' and talk about our waste and the future of the earth.  So let's be on our way to the world of toilets!"

The characters that would be teaching us today (L to R):
Pritney ~ "An exuberant waste girl who loves being cute"
Toile-no-suke ~ "Always squeaky clean! A hard working toilet boy,"
Britto ~ "Adventure Lover! A waste boy who has just returned from Kenya"
Dr. Bendel ~ "An enthusiastic fanatic scientist.  Studying the mysteries of toilets and feces."
Wipey ~ "Being made of paper, he is a frivolous character who loves flushing everything down the toilet."  (side note...this guy must have been speaking to Garytt when he was three and decided to flush a Strawberry Shortcake~and many other toys~ down the the point we had to totally dismantle, and sometimes snake, the toilet.)

After checking out a display with one of Japan's awesome toilets (music, heat, washing, air, etc, etc) we watched a little show about what a toilet could say if it could talk.

NOTE:  You might want to scroll past the next couple of pics if you have a weak have been warned!

The first of eight sections taught us all about the shape, smell, and color of our unchi (poop) bad food decreases the amount produced; how your environment, stress level, and daily activities can age your intestine; what your poop is made of (in case you were wondering 80% water, 10% intestinal mucosa, 10% food waste); and, what the color means.  We were also informed about the importance of washing your hands after going potty, what to do if your unchi falls on the floor (I can't make this stuff up!), and how viruses can be passed along if you don't wipe properly.
Garytt cracked me up here...he kept looking at that pile of poop.  Probably trying to decide if it was real.  Then, he worked up his bravery (some might say another word here) and did a lightening fast touch.  Shew...not real!

Yes, my friends, in Japan Super Poop to the rescue!!!

And, now a look at some animal poops.  On the right, there were three tubes on a counter.  The kids just picked them up and started sniffing.  Uuuhhhh...I'd be a little skeptical of a station that asked me to sniff something in a POOP exhibit!!!  And, they were fooled into a false sense of security...the first tube was a floral deodorant smell.  The second tube....blech, ugh, hack, gag....yeah, you get the idea!  The third tube was a mixture of deodorant and unchi smell.  I left that station for the kids to explore.

We walked around the corner and the kids were able to form their own model unchi out of clay and then place them in a Japanese benjo.
Garytt's model poo

Mackenzie making her unchi and watching a strange (and, I use that term loosely here considering this whole experience is way off the normal meter)...a strange movie with dancing and fighting poops set to music.

Here is a toilet bowl and clogs (used in front of a urinal or a squat toilet so splashes don't get on your toes).  These are designed in blue and white, which was a very trendy thing back in the Edo period.

The second section told us what we can do while on the toilet.  It showed a school house potty room with tiny little toilets.  The next little spot was a potty in a room that was totally closed off to everything around it.  There was also a toilet in the middle of a library.  I can't believe I didn't get a shot of that one.  It was pretty neat, says the book nerd in me.   Then, there was a toilet game...yes...I said  The kids walked up and pushed a button to make the little statue pee on a target while a toilet bowl on the screen in front of them many bowls can you fill?  Finally, there were pads of paper where the kids could draw a picture or write a note and then post it in the bathroom.  Mackenzie drew a potty (the yellow and purple one farthest to the left) and Garytt drew, yup, you guessed it...poop.

Section three...where does the poop go?  Also known as OUR FAVORITE PART OF THE DAY!  We walked down a hall where we were able to see the evolution of "going potty", from squatting out in the open, to squatting in a more secluded room, to using chamber pots, and all the way to the modern toilet, which we all got to experience for ourselves!  We all donned our poop hats, climbed up the ladder to the giant toilet, then WEEEEEEEEEE....into the can we went!!!!

I'm going to steal Aida's caption here:  The Poop Group  

Checking out books on poop problems.
I didn't get too many shots of the next few areas.  My kids didn't find them all that exciting so they whizzed on through.  There was a section that explained how astronauts go to the bathroom in space. And, then a section about problems with going potty....what it's like for victims of natural disasters, what happens when elderly can't take care of themselves properly, homeless people.

Last thing in the exhibit was a cute toilet song...where the toilets actually sing to us!

The boys were really pooped at the end of our tour...hee see what I did there?

If you're still reading this mess at this point, bravo!  Thanks for taking this trip along with us through the intestines and into the benjo!  And, remember....

Oh, and just in case anyone wants to take a piece of poop home with you...poop shaped lollipops!

Our train ride home was pretty neat.  The kids were able to get seats all the way at the back of the train as we went over the Rainbow Bridge.  We've seen the train several times as we've driven into Tokyo, and today we were able to get a beautiful view of the city and the structure of this spectacular bridge.

I have to say, this was probably one of the most fun trips we have been on since we've been here.  We had many laughs, learned a little (maybe more than we wanted), and made fabulous new friends!  And, to end the day...we probably had the most inappropriate dinner talk that will ever be allowed in this house!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tōrō Nagashi at Mikasa Park, Yokosuka 2014

It's Obon Season in Japan...well, in this part of Japan, anyway.  This is an event from Buddhism to honor one's ancestors.  It's a three day event that occurs around either July 15th or August 15th, depending on the traditions of your area.  This event is celebrated around the middle of the seventh month of the year...according to the lunar calendar, that is August; according to the solar calendar, it's July.  The city of Yokosuka commemorated their ancestors this week.  
Buddhists believe that this time of the year their ancestors' spirits return to be with their family, so their earthly families take time to clean their houses as well as family grave sites before helping the spirits make the voyage back.
It looks like the celebrations can range from a big ole festival to a quiet public ceremony.  I've seen some places have Bon Odori (traditional dance performed to welcome the spirits of the dead and is usually performed on a wooden stage), some have huge bonfires (like over 600 feet), parades, fireworks, and drums.  For those interested, here is a list of five Bon festivals that sound amazing:

So, after a quick dinner Wednesday night (July 16th), we all ran out of the house so we could make it to Mikasa Park by 1845 to watch the Tōrō Nagashi.  Tōrō Nagashi is usually performed on the last day of the Bon festival.  It is a way for people to guide their ancestral spirits back to the other world by lighting candles and placing them in lanterns which are then floated out to sea.  

We made it to the park by about 1850 and found a place to sit on the grass.  There were a LOT of people crowded onto the Mikasa Ship Museum to get a bird's eye view of the lanterns.  Since it doesn't really get dark until about 1915 or so, we had a little while to wait.  

The first of nine boats to go out into the water
So, Garytt took off to play with all the Japanese kids running around the park.  Once the boats started moving out into the water he ran back over to watch...I do have to say, he was not at all impressed by this festival.  Mackenzie thought it was magical, Garytt said, "Is this ALL they are doing?"

Then, two or three at a time, the lanterns were slowly lit and lowered into the water.  

I heard that there were supposed to be ten boats and around 1,300 lanterns.  We only counted nine boats, one of which just sat toward the back of the bay without putting any lanterns in the water.  It was about ten minutes or so into the lantern lighting that we realized that a lot of the lanterns seemed to be floating toward the base.  Hmm...wonder if we could get over there for a good view??  So, we packed up and started back to the base.

 On our way back past Mikasa Ship we saw several people setting up to perform Bon Odori.  So, we stopped to see a few minutes of the performance.

I'm not sure what time we made it back to the base, but we got in our car (which we left by Womble Gate) and drove to the little parking lot beside the post office, then walked to the sea wall.  Here's what we saw...

So, I have a question to anyone out there that can answer it...the purpose of Tōrō Nagashi is to help the spirits back to the other world.  Well, what happens if all the lanterns get stuck by the sea wall and don't make it out to sea?  There were a LOT of lanterns piled up by the wall next to the post office.

I thought this was a beautiful thing to see...Boy didn't agree with me here.  And, most of the kids (6 or 7 years and younger) just ran around at the park while all the adults watched and took pictures.  It was so quiet over at the park before the music started playing for the Bon Odori.  I'm sure glad I just happened to see a post about this a couple hours before it happened!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tomyodo Beach Sea Glass and Pottery

Recently I've heard a lot of talk about collecting sea glass and pottery on the beaches around here.  I've been curious, but hadn't gotten my stuff together enough to make it out in search of these places.  This week a friend invited me to tag along with her...YAY!  So, after church we all changed our clothes and rode on out to the beach.  Our destination today:  Tomyodo Beach, Uraga.  We made it there right at lunch time, so we spread out a blanket and ate sammies real quick. was out to the water!  

We were very lucky with the weather.  It looked like it wanted to rain on us when we left the base, but it held out until right at the end of our day.  :)  The temp was only in the low 80's with a bit of wind off the water and clouds in the sky.  Beautiful day for digging in the sand!

We got our buckets, shovels, large flat rocks (good for digging), and headed to the edge of the water.

The kids hung out with us for a bit, digging around for treasures, but then they took off for the rocks and the tide pools to see what they could see.

They found crabs galore, some jelly fish, other little fishes, sea urchins, and a star fish that they all even touched!

The beach wasn't crowded at all.  We did find pottery, not the big pieces many people have mentioned lately, but maybe that's because all the recent chatter has increased the beachcombers and they took our pieces!  Every time I see this place mentioned on FB I sigh...geez!  Stop telling everyone about this 'secret' place!, never mind!  It's just too fun not to share!

These are the rocks the kids were climbing on.  When we got there the tide must have been close to the lowest point.  But, when Stephanie and I headed over to where the kids were the tide was starting to rise, so the tide pools and walking area had shrunk quite a bit.  We still had so much fun exploring and found a lot of cool things to look at.

I took this shot because I thought, "Wow!  Mackenzie and Garytt are getting along soooo well!"  Turns out, this is Mackenzie and our friend, Daniel...same height, same hair color.  Ha!  That's why they were getting along!

This is a pretty large tide pool.  The little girls around it had collected several little crabs and fish and had them in a little plastic creature tank.  (note to self:  we should have one, or two, of those for next time!)

Garytt climbing down the rocks to the water.  When we got there none of that water in front of him was there, well, the water immediately in front of him...I think that big ocean was there before we arrived.

These cool guys were all over
the rocks.

The wooden lighthouse on the cape.  This was taken on my cell phone at about the time the clouds were getting darker, so the shot didn't turn out very well.  Next time I'll take my nice camera to get a good shot.

The kids found a little "cave"

On our way back to our spot I happened to see the guy above moving on the sand. I touched one of the little shells and all of his little arms slowly moved closer to the center. After a little research, I think this may be a goose barnacle. 


The blue and white pieces

Mackenzie's miscellaneous findings

A couple cool shells and some sea glass

Mackenzie's shells and rocks

I found a Delaware on the beach today!  :)  Home! <3

The drive seemed pretty easy...says the person who hasn't driven out of Yokosuka city...There were only a few turns.  The key to finding the turn from the main road to the beach access road is this:  make a left when you see the murals on the wall to the right, just before the tunnel.  If you go through a tunnel, you've gone to far.  We rode up this little road toward the beach, and almost at the end there is a sharp turn to the right and a little parking lot there.  The lot was full when we got there, so we just parked along the road...not sure how legal that was, but other people were doing it, and we didn't get a ticket, so I guess it was ok.