February 2012

Shishi Kaikan Automata Exhibits in Takayama, Japan

There is a wonderful museum which exhibits working automata of the Edo era in Japan.  It's called Shishi Kaikan and it's located in Takayama, Japan.  The automata are mechanical marvels.  A couple of these have been modeled by Gakken and are available as scaled down kits.  I've included videos of a few of the larger displays below.  I'm calling these "automata" but the Japanese word is Karakuri which is a sort of puppet meant to surprise people with what they can do.  Sometimes the mechanism is automatic but in the cases shown here there is a hidden human operator.I took several videos of the various automatons.  The one below shows an acrobatic automaton which swings from hand hold to hand hold.
Below is a robot which steps from pedestal to pedestal (while the hidden operator carefully re-attaches it's feet to each as it passes).
The next one shows a drawing robot and gives a peek at the hidden operator (my daughter got the drawing ;-) ).
The video below shows a tea serving robot. Gakken made a miniature of this as a kit. At the point where the video ends, I've just discovered that as the only obvious Gaijin in the audience that the rice cake and tea that the robot brought was being offered to me and that I should come consume it, which I did ;-)
The next one is another elaborate festival automaton.
The museum is located in Takayama (show below). We were passing through as the town is at the foot of to the Japanese Alps.
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