Funded by the Freeman Foundation and administered by the Association of Children's Museums, the exhibit advances understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture with true stories and real objects straight from Japan. Intended to entertain and educate the young and old, Five Friends highlights similarities and differences between Japan and the U.S. and replaces misguided stereotypes about Japanese lifestyles with authentic vignettes.
The excitement begins at the center of the 1,800-square foot exhibition space in a typical Japanese elementary school classroom. Museum-goers discover video messages from the five friends. After getting acquainted and participating in customary activities in the Japanese school, kids and their families follow the friends home.
Rooms modeled after real Japanese homes feature more in-depth video narratives and hands-on activities lead by the five friends:
In Sakiko's bedroom, visitors can dress in traditional Japanese attire as well as take a look at her favorite jeans & hoodies, check out real manga (comics), and try creating their own. An only child and owner of many pets, Sakiko highlights popular culture and points out that some Japanese girls' bedrooms may look a lot like American ones.
In Ken's tatami room, youngsters will experiment with Japanese calligraphy, try out futon bedding, and learn about traditional home architecture. As the oldest of four siblings with a Japanese father and American mother, Ken shares details about his family and his love of baseball and Harry Potter.
In Aisa's kitchen and tofu shop, role-playing with Japanese cuisine is on the menu. With Aisa's help, visitors fill up on information about the variety of foods and eating habits in Japan, and learn about traditional festivals that take place in the town where she lives.
In Yusuke's yard, kids of all ages can practice aikido moves with the help of an instructor. In the garden, visitors will learn that not all Japanese gardens are pristinely manicured and designed for meditation. The yard is filled with Yusuke's bug collection and sports equipment.
In Shoko's living room, kids will listen to and create different types of Japanese music. Shoko, from an elite and culturally conservative family, shares her shell and stone collections. While hanging out, Museum-goers will notice that Shoko's living room looks a lot like their own here in the U.S.
"We're hoping that by presenting information about these five children, visitors will get a glimpse into their daily lives and come away with an appreciation of another culture by getting to know some real Japanese kids," said Akemi Chayama, Japan Program Educator at Boston Children's Museum.
Five Friends from Japan exhibit will be open through January 16, 2011.