Activities Art Reviews

5 reasons to visit WOW: City Lights and Woodland Shade at Japan House with kids

Explore the contrasting worlds of Japan’s contemporary and futuristic urban setup as well as rural traditions in WOW’s new digital art installation at Japan House London.

Digital design studio WOW has brought Japan to London in a new exhibition at Japan House. It is creative, fully immersive and interactive fun so you can spend a few hours alongside your young Londoners in this High Street Kensington gallery. Here are 5 reasons to visit this exhibition with your little people in tow.

Get dizzy with the Light Odyssey

As you enter the exhibition there are two ways you can go. And the toddler choose to go into WOW’s Light Odyssey first. This is a room filled with music and screens that use omnidirectional motion graphics to transport you to Tokyo’s skyscapes, waterways, capsule hotels and more. The installation lasts five minutes and it made us feel quite unsteady on our feet as we took a 360 degree virtual journey through the night sky on to skyscrapers and into the rooms of Tokyo’s inhabitants. The toddler was scared of the dark then excited by the starry skies and large boats as we come in from the Ocean into Tokyo Bay. Then, as we switched modes of transport, the toddler seemed delighted with the trains and he reminded me of this as he asked if he could sit upside down on our tube journey home. The answer was no.

Digitally carve a traditional kokeshi doll

There’s touch screens where you can digitally carve your own Kokenshi doll or a Japanese wooden toy and a little handy step means young Londoners can reach the touch screens and get in on the action. After you create your doll, they are added to the digital display and become part of the exhibition. We loved doing this activity and seeing our dolls taking shape on the screen in front of us. The toddler hopped on and off the step several times and delighted pointing at his digital creation was now on the screen. His favourite was the dragon/monster painted doll.

Summon digital birds

The Poppo Woods is an installation which encourages visitors to attach magnetic tree segments to a screen. Your tree will then summon digital birds to sit at the top. This got us very excited and our youngster was particularly keen to get the owl and the chicken to come and sit on his tree. Each bird is unique to the region of Tohoku and is a talismanic symbol. The Owl meant happiness and good fortune and the Chicken is a good omen as it is the first bird to be heard in the New Year. I was happy with both his choices although I would have personally preferred the Hawk which means business prosperity, career success and protection against evil. The toddler also noted there is a wandering bear behind the trees – this was the first thing he told his dad when we got home. 

See what your face would look like on a doll

Ever wondered what you would look like as a kokeshi doll? Well now is your moment. Photo technology enables you to get a glimpse of yourself as a kid’s toy as your photo is projected onto a doll. Would have been really cool if we could have this 3D printed to take home, my little action man made three different versions of himself and then, to everyone’s amusement, wanted to take the doll home. It was a case of you can look AND you can touch but we can’t take it home.

There’s an exhibition menu at the in-house restaurant at Japan House

Akira Restaurant upstairs at Japan House has two exhibition additions to the menu which celebrate both rural and urban Japanese culture. These are not exactly child friendly but given how entertaining the exhibition is for little people we figured we would include it. The new dish on the menu is made of Ox Tongue and served alongside jalapeno miso and the second urban inspired menu addition is a Tokyo influenced cocktail with a Whiskey base.

WOW: City Lights and Woodland Shade is free and on at Japan House from 21 November until 22 March 2020. More info on their website here.

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