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‘Hello from Japan!’ Brings Japanese Culture and Fun to the Please Touch Museum

From Tokyo to Kyoto, tour Japan all summer without leaving Philadelphia!

From the bright city streets of Tokyo to the bamboo forests of Kyoto, kids and parents can learn about and celebrate Japanese culture at the Please Touch Museum in this summer’s exciting new exhibit. “Hello from Japan!” is an immersive celebrating Japanese culture with interactive scenes and activities engaging STEM, literacy, creativity, and motor skills.


The exhibit will open on May 26 with “Friendship Weekend” with special programming and events — including meet-and-greets with Pikachu — and will run through September 3.


“Hello from Japan!” begins the museum’s 15-month “Year of the Global Child” initiative featuring exhibits, educational programs, and special events with the goal of preparing children for life in an increasingly interconnected world. The exhibit is the museum’s first trilingual one, with all informative graphics and descriptions in English, Spanish, and Japanese.


The exhibit is divided into two distinct realms — Tokyo streetscape and Shinto shrine park — which are connected by a bridge and demonstrate how tradition and modernity co-exist within the culture and values of Japan.


Each immersive realm has activities to engage and educate both kids and adults. Tellingly, many of the descriptions are wordy and at the eye-level of adults, so both audiences are kept in mind (and we have something to read while our kids play). Meanwhile, kids will be plenty busy, from karaoke to katakana!

Tokyo Streetscape

When you enter “Hello from Japan!” you are immediately greeted with bright colors and adorable graphics. This section represents the cityscapes of Japan, with a focus on youth-oriented trends. Familiar Japanese friends like Hello Kitty and Domo-kun can be found in little display cases integrated throughout the exhibit as well.


You’ll find child-sized “shops” like the “Dress Kawaii” dress-up area with fun costumes and accessories (there’s also a little cash register to complete the scene), a sushi bar called “Bento Joy,” and even a karaoke lounge. We loved making and sorting the pretend sushi, and then running next door to sing fun animal songs in Japanese! In addition to dressing up kawaii, there is also a combination dress-up and construction area with more opportunities for fun and learning.


This section also has lots of hands-on activities that will engage kids’ literacy, creativity, and language skills. Step into Katakana Club, and take a seat at a tablet that teaches fruits and vegetables phonetically and allows kids to trace the Japanese characters on the iPad.


Around the corner, you can design mascots in three ways: tracing at a lightbox, turning combination puzzles, and again using touchscreen technology. For some added fun, there’s a digital purikura photo booth with fun frames and stickers you can add before you email the final product to yourself, a little keepsake of the visit.

Shinto Shrine Park

When you’re done in the city, cross the bridge to the more serene and elegant Shinto shrine park. At the shrine, you can learn the rituals and elements to Shinto worship, write a wish on paper to hang on the Wishing Tree, and even receive a Fortune from the coin-op machine (Tip: bring pennies).


This section also has a bamboo forest reminiscent of Kyoto’s splendor that kids will love to navigate whether they’re crawlers or walkers — and those learning to walk will probably appreciate having something to hold onto while they creep around the greenery! This section also has a little building corner where kids can construct a bridge.


The design of the whole exhibit is incredible, but this section especially has such beautiful detail, bringing nature, art, and architecture inside on a small scale.

Daily Activities

To celebrate “Hello from Japan!,” the museum is planning daily activities throughout the exhibit’s run to complement and enhance the experience. In the exhibit space itself, there will be Kamishibai storytelling every day at 1:30 pm. This form of storytelling uses a series of large illustrated boards that are changed as the story progresses.


Downstairs in the Please Touch Playhouse, the museum will present a new performance to supplement their new exhibit. Yuki’s Journey will take viewers on a journey through farms, rivers, and forests to get to Tokyo so the main character can reconnect with a friend. Performances will be twice a day on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 11 am and 1 pm; and Sundays at 1 pm and 3 pm.

“Hello from Japan!” will run from May 26 through September 3 at the Please Touch Museum, and is free with museum admission and for museum members. The Please Touch Museum is located at 4231 Avenue of the Republic in Philadelphia, and is open from 9 am — 5 pm Monday — Saturday, and 11 am — 5 pm on Sundays.


Photographs by Laura Swartz.

Contributing Writer