Kawaii Dress Up station. Photo by Aoommiephotography.com.
Kawaii Dress Up station. Photo by Aoommiephotography.com.

Say Hello to Japan at Please Touch Museum's Latest Intercultural Exhibit

The newest traveling exhibit to come to the Please Touch Museum has come a long way to enrich the educational experience with a trilingual space that explores the cultural experience of traditional and contemporary Japan. Hello from Japan! features tons of hands-on activities and is one of the most digital exhibits to travel to the museum so far. I had a chance to check it out with my two kids (aged 5 and 1). Hello from Japan! invites visitors to explore how traditional Japanese aesthetics co-exists harmoniously with the contemporary.

The exhibit is divided into two areas, which I thought of as “New Tokyo” and “Old Tokyo.” Both spaces exist in the real Tokyo, and in the exhibit are designed to stand in stark contrast to reflect how modern attitudes and traditional Japanese cultural values co-exist.

New Tokyo
With bright colors, strong youthful presence, and a design that feels like a street in modern Japan, the “new” Tokyo side of the exhibit features Kawaii graphics and imagination spaces to play in such as a bento restaurant, photo booth, dress up station, construction zone, and even karaoke, and yes, that is as awesome as you can imagine! Both of my kids loved the karaoke station with lyrics, song choices, and mics. While I am certain my one-year-old had no idea why that space attracted her, I am going to go with the fact that it had bright lights and colors all around.

Taking in the lyrics in the karoke booth, image by the author

My son (the five-year-old) had a blast dressing up in colorful clothes as well as trying his hand at the mascot-making section. This is a really delightful space for practicing fine motor skills as kids are invited to design a mascot (mascot culture is huge in Japan) by with tracing paper and a wide selection of body, head, and eyes. Kids can mix and match to their delight, and walk away with some pretty impressive drawings.

Creating a mascot, image by the author

One particular space that I loved in this section invites visitors to better understand the language by using technology (iPads mostly). Guests can practice writing the names of fruits and vegetables in Japanese, as well as hear the proper pronunciations.

Old Tokyo
Cross a graceful bridge and to enter traditional Japanese culture with a tranquil and serene Shinto shrine park setting. In this more traditional space, guests are invited to compose messages and leave them on the wishing tree, crawl through a bamboo forest, and experience culture that is in stark contrast to the bright and bubbly colors on the other side of the exhibition space.

The wishing tree, image by the author

Scenes from Tokyo produced when you ring the bell, image by the author

Exploring the bamboo jungle, image by the author


My kids were definitely more into the modern space, but I was equally impressed with both sides. What really struck me, after we left, was how much my son actually seemed to take in. He understood that this was an exploration of a different culture and language despite the fact that I didn't do my due diligence and read the purpose of each exhibit to him. We played in the space for nearly an hour before moving on to explore the more familiar parts of the museum.

The details:

  • The exhibit runs May 26, 2018 - September 3, 2018
  • Hello from Japan! was created by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and is part of the Freeman Foundation Asian Culture Exhibit Series, funded by The Freeman Foundation and administered by Association of Children’s Museums to bring outstanding interactive exhibits about Asian cultures to children, their families and school groups at children’s museums across the United States.
  • The opening of Hello from Japan! also launches Please Touch Museum’s 15-month Year of the Global Child initiative featuring exhibitions, educational programs and special events set around preparing children for life in an increasingly interconnected 21st Century world. Check the calendar for event dates and descriptions.
  • Explore more tips for your visit.
  • Tickets for the museum can be purchased online.

The Please Touch Museum is located at 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, PA 19131.

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