Rome in Tokyo

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This is a strange find – is it is copy of the famous Capitoline Wolf statue from Rome, but it is in Tokyo, in Hibiya Park! Apparently it was a gift from Italy to Tokyo in the 1930s.
The real Capitoline Wolf statue is quite interesting because it is supposed to be an ancient Roman or even Etruscan statue of the wolf feeding the founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus. But actually the wolf is 11th or 12th century and the twins were only added in the 15th century.

Creative Art

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The Japanese like to decorate everyday things, for example instead of having normal drain covers they often have ones with artistic scenes that relate to the place where they are.
The picture at the top is from Tsukuba City, where the Japan Space Exploration Agency is based. The ones below are from a Buddhist temple on a mountain near Tokyo and Saitama City, which promotes itself as a ‘green city’.

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The Gods’ Playground

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In Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi there is a design museum and lots of design festivals so it’s not surprising that the playground in the garden there is modern and special. There are three sets of playground equipment all designed by a sculptor and artist called Masashi Takasuka. They have names, just like art exhibits have, so the swings are called The God of Wind (FUJIN, kaze-no-kamisama), the slides are called The God of the Mountain (SANJIN, yama-no-kamisama) and finally the low wavy climbing frames are called The God of the Sea (KAIJIN, umi-no-kamisama). We tested them out and they were fun to play on, especially the slides 🙂

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Brainy Curtains!

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At the moment (until 6th November) at Tokyo Roppongi Midtown there is a design exhibition called ‘Design Touch‘ and one of the exhibits is an arrangement of curtains that you can control by just using your brain! It’s called the ‘Curtain Wall Theatre’ and visitors use a brainwave sensor to open and close the curtains.
Volunteers go up to a little platform and put on a headset which attaches gently to your forehead and left ear. In front of you is a little computer screen that says how much brain activity you are creating. If your brain activity is at 30% or under then the curtains in the exhibit will close. If your brain activity is 70% or higher then the curtains will open!
When my brother and I tried the sensor we could both get our brain activity up to 100%, and right down to 20% or lower. But when our mum and dad tried their brain wave activity seemed to stick around 40-65%!
It’s fun to use the sensor, but it needs a lot more work until we can do stuff like drive our car or prepare our meals using this brainwave technology or something similar. When I tried it sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. For example sometimes I lowered my brain activity (looking at the floor and thinking of nothing) and it said my brain activity was going higher! But it was fun, and it was also fun to interact with the exhibit by walking and running through it when someone else was moving the curtains with their brainwaves!

P.S. The weird silver tube thing behind the curtains is nothing to do with the exhibition. It’s a piece of art!!

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Little Heroes

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I saw these three cute little animals in a shop window in Nara. They are all made out of felt. The one in the middle is a character called Kintaro. He’s a folk story hero who had incredible strength and fought demons! The one on the right is called Momotaro (the Peach Boy) and is another folk story hero. His flag says “Japan One” which means something like ‘best in all Japan’ and he’s wearing a little head band with a peach on it because he was supposed to have be born out of a peach! I have no idea who the little squirrel on the left is. It seems to be wearing a kind of grass skirt and perhaps carrying a fishing rod? If you have any idea who it represents please let me know in the comments :-).

Yakuza Tattoos

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These guys are gangsters! In Japanese they are called yakuza and they often have full body tattoos all over their bodies except on their faces and necks, wrists and hands, and ankles and feet – this is so they can wear a long sleeved top and long trousers to hide the tattoos. They want to hide them because first of all they want to be a little secret about their identity, and secondly because in Japan it is traditionally considered that only criminals have tattoos. Of course, that’s what these guys are – criminals!
Because the tattoos can’t usually be seen, if you walk around Japan you usually won’t know if you meet a yakuza. You might meet a guy and not know at all if he’s a yakuza or a perfectly normal man! The yakuza only reveal themselves at certain festivals (like the Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo where this photo was taken) where they pose for photos with nothing on except for a loincloth and show off their tattoos. When they do this they are friendly and safe to talk to (as long as you’re are polite and respectful!) – just normal people if you overlook the tattoos! Yakuza tattoos are usually really high quality and very artistic.
At other times the yakuza might come to your store and say, “give us some money or something bad may happen to your store,” and they kind of control some areas of the city or town they live in . They work in gangs in entertainment areas mostly, and even have offices! But the police don’t often arrest them. It seems that they don’t really see them even though they know they are there. And there are so many that it seems that it is impossible for the police to arrest them all to stop the criminal activities!