Gate to the stars
Looking up at the star-sprinkled sky and delving into the secrets of the universe makes us feel part of something bigger. At this moment, we can forget all our worries, and focus our minds.Sadly, with all the light pollution in our cities, we can hardly see a clear night sky. If you want to have an experience that is as close as possible to the original, Kashiwa has it's own planetarium?The planetarium is on the second floor of the Kashiwa Library, combining theoretical knowledge (books) and practical application (planetarium) under one roof. The planetarium is the third smallest in Japan, and its 6-meter dome offers a perfect view at the stars, maybe even closer to your eye then reality itself. A special experience at a very special place.
Night sky stories
Kashiwa Planetarium does not just show you the stars, it engulfs you in a beautiful story. The journey begins with the early night sky, where the sun is yet visible as a small dot. The auditorium is still bright when soothing music creates a perfectly relaxing atmosphere. It enters your body and touches your heart, making your mind relax. The narrator's smooth voice introduces today's program, not a recording, but a perfectly timed live performance. I have never felt as closely connected to a planetarium as this one, falling in love with Kashiwa's planetarium from minute one. As the surrounding turns dark, the sun slowly disappears. The whole dome fills up with bright stars. "As long as I can see a night sky like this, life has a purpose," I think to myself, and from one moment to the next my mind I completely lost in the middle of the universe. At first, the most important seasonal star constellations are explained. Not just on the surface, but in a way to engage the listener, going into detail about different cultural backgrounds, and mentioning a variety of mythologies. You can feel the narrators passion throughout and are immediately pulled in the narrative.
After about 30 minutes, the lights are turned back on for the next part of the program. One selected story is introduced via a colorful slideshow presentation. The Orpheus story sends the listener back in time to the ancient greek world. A story about fighting death, everlasting love and the virtue of patience. Click the following link to read it yourself: Orpheus And Eurydice）Next up is another story with a monthly topic. "Space development- Business opportunities in space." The US giants "SpaceX" and "Blue Origins" as well as Japanese private space companies are introduced. Soon, it might become possible to go to space even without paying a horrendous amount of money of being one of the very limited elite. If you had the chance, would you to take a trip to space?
The room turns dark again, and the sparkling stars reappear, putting a big smile on my face. Looking at the night sky, the stars move by in a beautifully orchestrated time-lapse. As the planetarium dome gradually turns into the early morning sky, the sun reappears in the east. As the room lightens up bit by bit, the eyes have enough time to get used to the increasing brightness. The planetarium journey ends with soft music. The beautiful sky, the interesting stories, the narrator's voice and the overall atmosphere of the Kashiwa Planetarium have drawn me in from the beginning. A very fulfilling hour, I can easily recommend.
Teamwork is key
The Kashiwa Planetarium is operated by the members of the "Kashiwa planetarium research group" headed by Ms. Ninanko Komai, all the members are volunteers, willing to put in a lot of time and effort in keeping the planetarium interesting and supporting science education among all age groups. When I entered the planetarium room, I was surprised to see so many young faces. Apart from the main staff, the Kashiwa planetarium in narrated and organized by many university freshman students. Even though they were very busy before the next viewing, everyone gathers around me to participate in the conversation. I felt a lot of passion from every member and was astonished by the high level of proficiency. Without a doubt, the planetarium is loved by all its members. They pour their hearts and souls into every presentation, rehearsing and practicing over and over. Developing all the narratives and monthly stories is a team effort as well. Every voice, regardless of age, job position or experience is highly valued. Some members are busy with work, others are busy focusing on their research thesis, yet others are living abroad and are only able to help via email. Nonetheless, you feel a very strong bond keeping the members of the "Kashiwa Planetarium research group" together.
A place of dreams
One member has been coming to the Kashiwa Planetarium as a visitor with his parents since 3rd-grade elementary school, and now joined the "Kashiwa Planetarium research group" as a freshman in college.Going to the planetarium from a young age impacted him personally. The love for space, and the love for science, all started with a small spark. Who knows how many young people were influenced in their decisions by coming to the Kashiwa Planetarium. And who knows, how many aspiring scientists will be inspired in the future.
A little bit of history
Why is a planetarium inside the city's library, some people might ask? I tried to get an answer. Planetariums in Japan experienced a sudden rise in popularity in the '60s and '70s and this by chance overlapped with the construction of the city library. To achieve a good combination of theoretical and practical education, the city of Kashiwa decided to build a planetarium directly into its new library. Both the planetarium and the library were constructed at the same time and together opened their doors on May 1st, 1976. At first, operated by a local teacher and city officials. After some time, the teacher retired from his planetarium duties, and the officials, lacking theoretical and technical expertise, were quickly overwhelmed. The "Kashiwa Planetarium research group" was founded, and is in charge of operating and maintaining the planetarium since.
Words are not enough
I enjoyed my time at the Kashiwa Planetarium. The atmosphere, the kindness of all of its members, I felt at home. The beautiful night sky and the interesting stories, a perfect combination of relaxation and learning. On top of that, the planetarium is completely free of entrance. If you haven't been to the Kashiwa planetarium, you should go. If you have been there already, why not go again?Right now, they do not offer a show in English, but maybe the Kashiwa Information Center and the Kashwia Planetarium can work together in the future, to make a presentation in multiple languages.I look forward to the future, and will be back to enjoy the beautiful night sky again.
Screening Schedule：Kashiwa Planetarium Homepage(Japanese Only)
Place：Planetarium Room, Kashiwa Library 2F, Kashiwa 5-8-12, Kashiwa-City
Date of coverage: 15th September 2019
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