When nature calls at the beachside Mumin Papa Cafe in the city of Akashi (Hyogo prefecture), patrons have the luxury of using an underwater restroom built into the side of a giant aquarium filled with exotic fish and a sea turtle that likes to watch. According to the cafe owner, the 30-million-yen ($270,000) sub-aquatic restroom is designed to recreate the pleasant sensation of relieving yourself while swimming in the ocean. Unfortunately for male patrons, however, the submerged toilet is for women only. When asked about the voyeuristic turtle, the owner admits it is male and a bit of a letch.
M-INT Kobe, a commercial complex scheduled to open in Kobe on October 4, has been outfitted with an exterior lighting system that translates cosmic energy waves into pulsating blue light. The system is the first of its kind to be installed on a building in Japan.
Called "Super Nova," the lighting system consists of 2,880 blue LEDs arranged in two columns spanning the height of the 18-story building's west wall. The embedded lights are activated by sensors that detect cosmic rays. According to Takuro Osaka, the University of Tsukuba Graduate School professor who designed the system, the brightness of the blue lights fluctuates according to the intensity of the detected cosmic rays, giving the building an ever-changing magical glow.
Takuro Osaka has been exploring the use of cosmic radiation in art since 1995, and for years he has been discussing the possibility of collaborating with Japan's space agency (JAXA, formerly NASDA) on art projects in outer space. Check out Takuro Osaka's homepage for details about his previous spaced-out projects.
"It’s dirty, but everyone is interested in poop. I wanted to give it a try," says Michinori Ueda, director of Himeji City Science Museum, which is hosting an exhibit that delves into the world of excrement. Entitled Za Unchi-ten ("The Poop Exhibit"), the exhibit showcases the dung of 100 animals and provides displays that explore the relationship between feces and health.
Display cases containing an array of droppings of various shapes and sizes provide visitors a unique viewing experience. The droppings were obtained from the local zoo and aquarium, from animals ranging from elephants and ostriches to hippos and snails. Each sample, which has been freeze-dried and hardened with resin to eliminate the smell, is accompanied by photos and information about its "producer."
Other attractions include the fossilized dung (coprolite) of plant-eating dinosaurs, information about the Hebeloma radicosum mushroom and other fungi that grow from dung heaps, and dung beetle specimens. The exhibit also features an display explaining what happens to food inside our bodies after we eat it.
Visitors to the exhibit have had a variety of responses. “The beetle poop was cute,” said one visitor.
On his occasional strolls through the exhibit, Ueda explains to visitors how the color similarity between bird and reptile feces indicates their close relationship to each other. Ueda notes that only the lion droppings still smell, even though they were freeze-dried and hardened along with the other samples.
"The exhibit should make people think about how nature works in cycles," says Ueda, "and it should cause visitors to think about why different foods and animals produce different feces."
The exhibit will be held until June 18 (the museum is closed on Mondays). Admission is free. There is no word on what sort of souvenirs will be available in the gift shop.