Washington (Smithsonian museum)

April 12-15, 2008

My professor is advising the Narita Aeronautics museum about exhibitions and attracting visitors etc. For that job he was asked to visit some famous aeronautical museums around the world to see how they do it there. Initially our technical assistant would go with the prof, but due to some recent eye operation he couldn't and the professor asked me to assist during his world trip. In total we went with 4 people, 2 men from the Narita museum, my professor and me.

12 AprilTokyo -> Washington
Visit Smithsonian air & space museum (National Mall/downtown)
13 AprilVisit Smithsonian air & space museum (Udvar-Hazy center/Dulles airport)
14 AprilMeetings with management/staff National Mall
Meetings with management/staff Udvar-Hazy
15 AprilWashington -> London
16 AprilVisit the Royal Science museum (with tour-meeting)
17 AprilVisit the RAF museum (with tour-meeting)
London -> Munchen
18 AprilVisit the Deutsches Museum (Museum insel, with tour-meeting)
Visit the Deutsches Museum (Flugwerft Schleissheim)
19 AprilVisit the Deutsches Museum (Museum insel)
Munchen -> Paris
20 AprilVisit the Air and Space museum at Le Bourget
21 AprilTour-meeting at the Air and Space museum at Le Bourget
Paris -> Tokyo
Not much time to relax and go sightseeing, but especially because of the tours and meetings with management and curators, the museums were quite interesting. When the others went back to the hotel after dinner, I normally still went for some sightseeing, although we also did some sightseeing together if we had a few hours left after a visit until dinner.

Here you can download a file with locations for Google Earth with the places I visited during this world trip.

When we arrived at Dulles (Washington international airport) we were deported from one terminal to another by special vehicles. I say deported because they were not normal buses but strange high-security-looking vehicles (left in the picture).

Remarkable was the immigration. Where in other countries the officers speak as little as possible, keep looking serious or even austerne, the Americans talk like you are their friend, not asking questions like it is the protocol and getting annoyed if you don't get it (some people in another line were asked the purpose of their visit, but they did not get it really and after a few times it became clear they had a daughter in America, and the officer was like "AAAAH NOW we are getting somewhere, your DAUGHTER lives here HAHAHA..." that officer was very loud all the time anyway by the way.

I'm not sure what I think of this immigration style actually. There's always some tension at immigration inspection, so then it is nice if there is a friendly atmosphere, however this friend-like behaviour of people you don't know I always find a bit strange. In America people behave like that all the time and it really started to annoy me, everyone asking "hey how are you doing" whereas they actually couldn't care less.

By the way, I have to admit that the Japanese immigration officer on my return was also quite friendly this time.

The Dulles airport terminal building has a nice architecture, looking kind of futuristic and spacious.

Every night we slept in high class hotels and had 4 separate rooms. The Capital Hilton, where we stayed the first nights, has really huge rooms and a huge bed. Because it was so big it felt very empty and lonely... The breakfast buffet was really nice, the beds were good and the location was very practical, however it has no atmosphere, the grate of the heater fell off and for over 200 dollars a night, even internet was not inculded. Well, everything was paid for me by the Narita museum anyway (also the internet), so I don't complain :-)

I often found the american people difficult to understand. With the people in the meetings we had at the museums there was not much of a problem, but the hotel staff, security staff at the museums, taxi drivers etc... I don't really know what it was... their accent, talking speed, choice of words, skipping parts of words when pronouncing... maybe it was just my mind having to switch from Japanese English to American English... However, when we went to London it felt like a huge relief from the moment we met the taxi driver in language, behaviour, style, culture, ... I don't know what exactly, it just felt "European" like home maybe.

So after refreshing at the hotel we went to the Smithsonian air and space museum in downtown Washington. We walked from the hotel, passed the white house and came across a japanse festival with some american festival visitors wearing something asian-looking clothes (but definitely not authentic japanese). The museum is pretty big and we decided to split up and each go around alone for about 2 hours.

[HDR] After the 2 hours we took a taxi back to the hotel, refreshed and had dinner in the hotel. After dinner the others went to bed (jetlag) but I wanted to see some more of washington, so I went off by metro (Mc Pherson Square station) back toward the National Mall (heading for the Washington Monument)

I was lucky to see a nice sunset as I walked past the Washington memorial

[HDR] I walked on to the World War 2 Memorial

the mirror pond (with the Lincoln memorial in the back)

and finally the Lincoln memorial.

[HDR] After that I decided to walk back (it was getting late and really dark). I passed by the white house once more as it was on the route anyway

The next day we went to the Udvar-Hazy center, an annex of the Smithsonian air and space museum. It is actually a huge hangar with lots and lots of air- and spacecraft. Here they have some really famous aircraft (in the other museums we visited the supposedly famous aircraft didn't ring a bell with me). We got a standard tour by one of the volunteer guides which was really interesting.

This apollo capsule was used for training, although the orange balls on top and the orange belt have really been used in a space mission.

supposedly really famous aircraft.

The enterprise was the first space shuttle built, however it was never finished to be space worthy. It has no engines and the heat protection tiles are fake (only a few are real). The shape of the engines and the tiles were made though, because the enterprise has been used for full scale aerodynamic testing. They brought it up into the air on top of a "normal" aircraft, decoupled it, and let it glide back to earth and land to verify that everything was working properly. After the accident with the shuttle where some insulation material hit and damaged the heat protection tiles, NASA borrowed the wing of the Enterprise for some full scale tests to investigate what could have hapenned.

"Kugisho MXY7 Ohka Model 22

Near the end of World War 2, Vice Admiral Onishi Takijino recommended that the Japanese navy form some special groups of men and aircraft to attack American warships gathering to conduct amphibious landings in the Philippines. The Japanese used the word Tokko (Special Attack) to describe these units. To the Allies, they became knwon as the kamikaze. By the war's end, some 5,000 pilots died making Tokko attacks.

The Ohka (Cherry Blossom) was designed to allow a pilot with minimal training to drop from a Japanese "Betty" bomber at high altitude and guide his aircraft with its warhead at high speed into an Allied warship. While several rocket-powered Ohka 11s still exist, this Ohka 22 is the only one surviving jet-powered version of the aircraft. It was captured in Japan in 1945. Unlike the Ohka 11, the Ohka 22 never became operational."

This is at least the american version of the story (although I don't think there has been much disagreement about this). An interesting point is maybe still to note that "kamikaze" means devine wind. As you can see, it is more like a bomb than like an aircraft and as the pilots are said to have had only minimal training, the influence of the wind may have played a big role in the success of a hit. Another point is that the name "Ohka" indeed means cherry blossom (a flower is also painted on the aircraft) but there are other meanings (same pronunciation, but different chinese characters): imperial influence/assimilation of new territory, glorification/eulogy/song of praise, and funny enough, also Westernization.

This is the Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It is presented here as a kind of trophy, although they don't talk about it really in heroic terms or so luckily. I've visited Hiroshima and the A-bomb memorial dome as well (which was a very emotional experience) and I must say that seeing the bomber like this gave me some indeterminate feeling.

The 3rd day ouf our visit we had meetings with the management and some staff. Before the actual opening of the museum, we met a japanese men (far right) who lives in Washington and is a volunteer with the Smithsonian, he joined us in the meeting. From left to right are Mr. Taneyama (curator of the Narita museum), Mr. Yamakawa (Narita museum), Prof. Suzuki (my prof) and Mr. Momiyama (volunteer for Smithsonian).

Iwojima monument

[HDR] The dutch carillon. This tower with bells (to play a melodie) was a present of the people of the netherlands to show theig gratitude to the American people for their role in World War 2.

Arlington Cemetery, with thousands and thousands of similar white gravestones

P.S. We also went to "the historical town of Alexandria" the second day, but I couldn't really see what was so historical about it... After all, it's still America.