School’s out for summer, and that means many are scrambling for ways to occupy and entertain their kids, without breaking the bank or boring the grown-ups. For this month’s picks, we offer three different interactive, educational, family friendly—and FUN—exhibitions.

By Sarah Custen

“Pika*Boko: An Onomatopoetic Guide to Crafts”

No talking! No touching! No wonder most kids aren’t clamoring for more museum visits. The Crafts Gallery at MOMAT turns this model on its head with “Pika*Boko,” an interactive exhibition featuring tactile delights and teachable talking points, encouraging parents and children to connect over modern and classic Japanese crafts.


Takahashi Yoshihiko, “Bottle with Dots,” 2010.

Divided into six sections, “Pika☆Boko” uses the resonance and rhythms of “childish” onomatopoeia to convey the essence of the crafts’ textures and materials. Visitors explore Tsuya-Tsuya! (Glossy), Pika-Pika! (Sparkly), Suke-Suke! (See-Through), Boko-Boko, Gotsu-Gotsu! (Lumpy, Rugged), Zara-Zara, Sara-Sara! (Rough, Smooth),and Darari, Jiwari, Sube-Sube! (Limp, Oozy, Satiny) with reading guides for children and adults.

“Adults can give kids some hints to understand or enjoy works,” explained Yukako Takahashi, MOMAT PR representative, adding that kids are encouraged to create new onomatopoetic descriptors and draw pictures about works they find impressive. These drawings will then be exhibited in the museum for the duration of the show. “Then not only their parents but also other visitors can share the kids’ impression or joy,” said Takahashi.

There is also a “Touch and Talk” program held Wednesdays and Saturdays through the period of exhibition, as well as a “Gallery Talk” for children and several workshops with artists as guest lecturers.

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT)–Crafts Gallery
Dates: July 14–September 27, 2015
Open: Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00–17:00; closed Mondays

“Pokémon Lab: You Do It! You Discover!”

Pokémon is a household name, cutting across cultures, crossing borders, and uniting generations of fans. This exhibition puts a scientific spin on friendly, familiar characters, pairing education with entertainment to teach visitors about scientific methods, observation, and classifications.

Inside the “Pokémon Lab,” visitors are transformed into junior researchers, challenging themselves with different character-based experiments, which are arranged by difficulty level. Visitors can also learn about the history and worldwide appeal of Pokémon, witnessing how these characters have influenced—and been influenced by—the continual evolution of gaming consoles and technology.

©2015 Pokémon. ©1995-2015 Nintendo/Creatures Inc. /GAME FREAK inc.

©2015 Pokémon. ©1995-2015 Nintendo/Creatures Inc. /GAME FREAK inc.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—Miraikan is a multi-faceted exploratory wonderland, with activities suitable for any age group. From the tactile “Curiosity Field” (for pre-schoolers), to the geo-planetary “Tsunagari” and “Explore the Frontiers,” to the head-turning Dome Theater, Miraikan’s events and exhibitions are produced in conjunction with leading scientists and engineers. “It’s a cool building,” said Adrienne Stacy, a Chiba resident. “You enter and it’s open, mostly glass. So the atrium area is really bright.”

And let’s not forget the robots. Want to meet the robot that played soccer with President Obama? Talk to an android? Ride around on a “personal mobility device”? Now is your chance!

“The robotic stuff is the main draw,” said Stacey’s partner, Luca Eandi. “And it doesn’t disappoint.”

Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
Dates: July 8–October 12, 2015
Open: Wednesday through Monday, 10:00–17:00; closed Tuesdays

“Manga*Anime*Games from Japan”

Manga is a loaded word, eliciting either cries of disgust or coos of delight: it’s not for everyone. But with the addition of familiar video games, arcade attractions, and unparalleled original artwork, the “Manga*Anime*Games from Japan” exhibit at NACT appeals to even the most reluctant fans.

The exhibition traces the evolution of manga and anime techniques, trends, and technology (going from 1989 to the present), and incorporates video, computers, and gaming systems, as well as hand-drawn sketches, some ripped directly from the artists’ notebooks. Visitors are encouraged to try out video and computer games, as well as virtual reality goggles, making the experience equal parts art and entertainment.

“We present the relationship between society, technology, and works of the same era,” said exhibition curator Taizo Muroya, describing it as “a chance for visitors to recognize the cultural value of manga, anime and games.” For younger visitors, he says, it can be “an opportunity to discover new things by studying the past works with which their parents have been familiar.”


The voices of a distant star (©Makoto Shinkai / CoMiX Wave Films)

Familiar series and characters include Naruto, Sailor Moon, Detective Conan and Super Mario Brothers, though the full list is truly comprehensive. Throughout the exhibit, examples of final, published products are paired with sketches and storyboards, illustrating the creative process. Fans can discover new dimensions within their favorite characters or series, by seeing them develop from lines on paper into cartoons, video games and books.

Nowhere is this more striking than in the final portion of the exhibition, where works in watercolors, charcoal and pastels create eye-popping art, sure to leave an impression. English signage is limited and adult-oriented, but reading isn’t necessary to enjoy this experience: this is an exhibition about storytelling and the art of play.

National Art Center Tokyo (NACT)
Dates:June 24–August 31, 2015
Open: Wednesday through Monday, 10:00–18:00, Fridays until 20:00; closed Tuesdays

Main Image: ©2015 Pokémon. ©1995-2015 Nintendo/Creatures Inc. /GAME FREAK inc.