A Thousand Wonders of Japanese Technology:
A brief 150 year history of Japanese modernization
30 October 2018 – 3 March 2019
National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
In celebration of the 150th anniversary since the Meiji period in 1868, a number of special events and retrospective exhibitions have been organized throughout the capital this year.
The present exhibition takes stock of the modern history of technology in the country since the Meiji period following the end of feudal Japan.
Historical materials, relics, records and gadgets are on display, unearthed from the treasure trove of “Kahaku” (National Museum of Nature and Science) and elsewhere. These articles put together – many of them historically significant “heavyweights” – tell a history of technology and its social impacts over one and a half centuries, loosely interwoven with keywords and anecdotes.
A possible setback for non-native visitors though, is linguistic, with sparse English explanation and almost non-existent translation of text panels of an otherwise immensely interesting (and geeky) expo.
Follow the bliss or find scarce translation
Precious materials on display
A total of some 600 exhibits attest to the modernization, industrialization, technological discoveries and improvements, as well as radical social changes brought about by them over 150 years.
The exhibits include a number of precious materials, such as those which are designated as Japan’s Important Cultural Property, Industrial Heritage, Mechanical Engineering Heritage and so on.
Emperor Meiji and Thomas Edison
For the 150th anniversary, relics related to the Emperor Meiji and Thomas Edison from the museum’s collection are exceptionally on display. A must see is “Edison Class M”, the gramophone that Edison gifted to the Emperor Meiji as a tribute.
Edison Class M 1890 National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
One of Edison’s first Gramophones with a brass plaque that reads “His Majesty The Emperor of Japan / With compliments of the inventor Thomas A. Edison”
Edison’s Home Kinetoscope National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
Highlights of “A Thousand Wonders” exhibition
◆ From the Meiji Restoration through the mid-Meiji period
The Tokugawa shogunate ended, tremendous changes were brought to society along with the rapid introduction of Western science, technology and institutions. Among them are letterpress printing, spinning machines, telegraph and phones, gramophones, trains and cars. And also, modern school system, science and medicine.
Yowasusumu denwa sugoroku (detail) 1893 National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
A sugoroku game illustrating early telephone service system in the Meiji period
◆ Quartz oscillators and magnetic materials
The Gregorian calendar and the 24-hour system were adopted in 1873, to replace the native time system and technology. Half a century later, Japanese people were reportedly not yet so “punctual”…
The section depicts the introduction and development of clocks and watches, and the Japanese contribution to the basic technologies such as quartz oscillators, magnetic and semi-magnetic materials including ferrite that are found everywhere in today’s life.
◆ Technology to change lifestyle
The power generation system for lighting of some buildings and houses was started in 1887. Sometime later, in the 1910s, various home electronic appliances were manufactured and brought to households – fans, stoves, fridges and more – for lifestyle changes.
Electronic Fan Meiji period (1868 – 1912) National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
◆ Technology to change industries
Gives a quick overview of the development of engines and motors, starting from the early turbines and Stirling engines, and those which were moved by them – vehicles, trains and aircrafts, among others.
Electric vehicle manufactured by Milburn Wagon Company circa 1920 National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
Mazda “Cosmo Sport” 1967 National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
A sports car powered by a rotary engine, mass-produced for the first time in the world by Mazda Motor Corporation
◆ Technology to transform materials
Highlights the role of steel, coal, chemical, synthetic and celluloid industries in the country’s history.
◆ Technology related to life science
The section refers to bio-technology and natural chemistry, featuring rice and silkworm, as well as urushiol of lacquer and squalene or shark liver oil.
◆ Technology to transform towns
From the first domestic bulldozer to radars and earthquake-resistant technology.
Komatsu Bulldozer G40 1943 Komatsu Ltd.
Mechanical Engineering Heritage
Japan’s first domestic bulldozer manufactured by Komatsu
◆ Technology to change communication
Presents the evolution of computing, information and communication technology, covering wireless technology, radio, telephone, music players (including the 1979 Walkman), optical machinery, x-ray, facsimile, television, calculators, word-processors and computers.
“Sogonki” 1878 National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
Important Cultural Property
The first sound recording device used in Japan, assembled by James Alfred Ewing, the Scottish physicist and engineer employed in Japan
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