cabinet of wonders: mighty (orphan) robot


One of my favorite orphaned objects is this MIGHTY ROBOT that I found among the rocks down on the beach near Himeji.  It was most likely left behind one day by someone’s son or daugher, playing among the rocks; it doesn’t show any of the kind of sea wear that you would expect from an object that had been floating in the waves and and later tossed on shore to fade in the sun.  It seems to be a smaller version of a toy robot that was made by the Yoshiya company in the late 1960s, a toy that apparently had visible rotating gears inside its head, alarm lights and eyes that would light up, and arms that “can be moved manually” (just about the only feature that holds over to the mini-version).  I often wonder how many days the tiny MIGHTY ROBOT waited, abandoned on the beach, and what it saw while it was out there.

I remember the day I found the robot well, because it’s the day that I learned the phrase,「明石と言えばタコ」(Akashi to ieba tako) — a phrase that might be translated, “When you say Akashi, you say octopus.”  Akashi is a city in Hyogo prefecture, just south of Kobe, and it’s famous for its octopus and octopus dumplings.  Akashiyaki (明石焼き) is a lot like Osaka’s famous takoyaki (たこ焼き or 鮹焼) — often given the unfortunate translation of “deep fried octopus balls” — except that the center of the dumpling is left soupy and it’s dipped in a thin sauce before eating instead of covered in a thick sauce.  After our day at the Himeji coast, my friends and I ended up in Akashi, eating Akashiyaki and bowls full of unbelievably delicious marinated and stewed octopus tentacles.  Being in Akashi reminded me of seeing Shimabuku‘s video work “For Octopus,” which was part of the Time After Time: Asia and Our Moment exhibit at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In “For Octopus,” Shimabuku takes an octopus from Akashi and gives it a tour of Tokyo, carrying it in a clear plastic bag.  In the segment that I watched, Shimabuku is in a taxi with the octopus.  When the taxi driver hears that Shimabuku plans to give the octopus a tour of Tokyo Tower, he begins laughing hysterically and then finally proclaims, “What a lucky octopus!”  The culminating scene in the video involves taking the octopus on a tour of Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market and then letting it go free, back in the sea near Akashi.

If you want to check out more fantastic robots, one nice thing to do might be to visit Maura Cluthe’s blog, fragmented.


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