Mitsubishi industrial museum Yokohama
Mitsubishi is commonly known as the GE of Japan. Been in business for more than a century. From grain trading to aircraft and ship manufacturing it has its imprints everywhere. It owns large tracts of land and real estate in Otemachi, the downtown business center of Tokyo. So it has much to show and tell to the coming generations. The 2 floor museum in Yokohama seaside is a tribute to this rich history.
Designed in futuristic shades of white and grey it is part of a sky-high Mitsubishi building on the museum street. Reachable easily by JR from Sakuragicho station or from metro Minaromirai line Minaromirai station.
We went for a visit on Saturday this last week of August. On the way we decided to take a short detour – take a trip on steamer from Yokohama station. Got down at MinatoMirai pier. Walked two blocks to reach the museum. Tickets purchased straight in we headed towards the man in space suit. It’s actually just the space suit, with stairs behind for little ones to climb up into the space suit! An ideal photo op. The exhibits here on wards proved to be equally interesting.
First on the right of the space suit there is a driving simulator. Suppose you want to feel how it feels to be a driver driving a subway train. A giant LCD screen displays stations passing by as you / your little co-passenger drives. Others can take a sit in behind the driver. There was a long queue though.
The Ocean Exploration Hall
Next on we headed towards the ocean exploration room. It houses a giant submersible, a mock up of SHINKAI 6500 the deep sea submersible. visitors can take a peek inside the control chamber. There is even a simulation game for the little explorer to control a submersible through a deep sea passage! A piece of thick metal plated vessel kept at one comer seems to have been sheared off by some undersea monster. It actually shows how thick the walls of a submersible need to be. Else water pressure tears a vessel apart made of solid steel! There were puzzle games to be played on screen – stuff like build a submersible by dragging and dropping pieces. Neat, for our eight year old.
The Space Exploration Hall
The next halt was the room on aircrafts. The nose cone of a Real aircraft peeked out of the room. It was a mockup of a real passenger jet! Cut into half, with the pilots cabin and a few sits behind being set up there. Young pilots can experience flying using real controls through simulator. His/her passengers can watch from behind. Seat bests must. Enough to experience a flight, on land. Beware the queue here can get really long especially on weekends.
The passage next winds through an alleyway with walls on two sides depicting space history in pictures. The passage opens into an area for rockets, showcasing exhaust pipes of rockets. Big enough to qualify as a room of a capsule hotel!
The passage then heads into an innocuous corner marked with pictures of balloons, aero planes, satellites and rockets. As one stands in the center of the corner, an overhead camera is activated. It projects images down showing pictures of Yokohama, Japan, the green and blue earth, the Arctic lights,shooting stars passing by. It gives a feeling as if one is going up, with projections showing views as seen from a balloon, a helicopter, an aeroplane, a satellite, all in their average altitudes. A strand of light blinks its way up showing the height reached at each point. A very engaging way of demonstrating how high up really is the space.
Stepping out of the corner we take a few steps and reach the 3D projection room. A small room of circular shape, big enough to perhaps hold 10 persons standing comfortably. not that impressive in the beginning. But as the demonstration started, things changed. Cameras projected images on the wall and the floor. Lights changed, turning the floor pitch black with a few stars here and there. From floor to the wall it was a continuous 3-dimensional screen, with we spectators standing somewhere in this expanse.
Soon we were standing at the edge of the earth. An alien space craft appeared in the horizon. It came closer. The spacecraft came closer and closer, doors opened, stairs extended, slowly reached our level. In no time we were at the bridge. I was ready in my mind, Light Sabres activated. Did I just hear foot steps, sound of heavy breathe? The show ended. In a word it was captivating – especially if you do not know what to expect off it. Sorry, am such a spoiler.
2nd Floor Energy Information Gallery
Next upstairs the gallery opened into wide open space without any separation wall. Zones were marked for specific exhibits. Our first target here was the Skywalk adventure, a part of the Trial Square section. Here one can experience piloting a helicopter with real simulator. However space being limited one needs to be fairly early to reserve slot. We were late. As an alternative there was other lab activities. But we gave it a pass.
The huge floor to ceiling projections in the center of the gallery was showing images of our earth and environment. If alone one could take a seat and enjoy the visuals. But we were traveling with kids. So well we moved on. To a next activity showing how energy is generated from natural resources like coal, petroleum, nuclear energy, solar energy etc. Nice show, but did not lend itself to much activity. There was a scale model of a thermal energy plant, with minute details. Then there were chunks of coal, half a canister of black petrol, and a piece of mineral stone apparently containing uranium.
Credit must be given to the museum for its effort to make things interesting for all ages. Here also there was a button to press, to see how radioactive minerals glow! Then there was a big screen for kids to solve a puzzle and in the process learn how steam turns a turbine and generate electricity. There was also a game where you could control a man flying through a factory, with hopefully, learning something about the various components in a real power plant. Somewhat ambitious, but one would not complaint as it made a fair attempt at getting kids engaged and understand those things.
2nd Floor Transportation Research section
The other half of the gallery had a collection of miniature rail engines, ships, airplanes within glass showcases. The famous zero fighters and the aircraft carrier Musashi stood next to passenger plane models and military aircrafts.
A part of the hall wedged between the energy gallery and the models section has been converted into a mini library. Around the library there are some exhibits that explain more fundamentals of science. Of course through interactive activities. Turn the driving wheel, see how the wheels of a car turn left or right. Matter of levers and gears and camshafts. Each of these things are further explained through separate exhibits. Lift a 10 kg weight, feels heavy especially to young hands. Engage levers, engage pulleys, and see how one can lift the same weight easily now.
It’s really difficult to explain science to kid, leave alone make him enjoy and wish to come back. Mitsubishi has done a good job. However the purpose of the museum is not just to educate kids on science but also to make people aware how Mitsubishi has been at the forefront of technology and industry. So the history part does exist, and overall arrangement was constrained to areas where Mitsubishi operates. These constraints may pit it unfavorably if compared against the similar but more engaging to children science exhibitions built by Sony or Panasonic.
Both of these had the liberty of using audio visual attractions, in line with their businesses. But Mitsubishi is in core engineering area. So it gets full credits for how it weaved core engineering with its history into a museum.