Tokyo exhibit in Odaiba demonstrates construction equipment, educates visitors

A futuristic robot-like heavy machine with two arms and four legs.


By KEIICHI SHIMIZU | Japan News Yomiuri | Published: April 12, 2019

An exhibition featuring heavy machinery used at construction sites is being held at Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) in the Odaiba area of Koto Ward, Tokyo.

The special exhibition, titled “Kojichu! Tachiiri Kinshi!? Juki no Genba” (The “Under Construction” Is It Safe to Enter!? Heavy Machinery in Use!), organized by The Yomiuri Shimbun and others, displays an array of 10 heavy machines, ranging from the nation’s first domestically built hydraulic excavator to a state-of-the-art, robot-like concept machine with two arms. Visitors can even climb aboard a couple of the machines.

These machines include a bulldozer used in such work as leveling rough land. In Japan, the use of bulldozers became widespread after the end of World War II, and they served as a driving force for postwar reconstruction work.

The exhibition also includes the country’s first domestically-built hydraulic excavator, which made its appearance in 1961, three years before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Such shovels were used in construction projects during the days of the nation’s high economic growth, such as building expressways and Shinkansen lines.

A hydraulic excavator can be used for various operations. In addition to digging into the ground with a scoop-like bucket attached to the end of its arm, it can carry out other tasks — such as grabbing and cutting — by using other attachments.

Overseas, the demolition of old buildings is often carried out with explosives. But that is difficult in urban areas of Japan, where buildings are crowded close together. Instead, heavy machinery is used to smash buildings’ concrete and cut through their steel frames. The exhibits also include huge pairs of scissors that can be attached to a hydraulic excavator to chop through steel frames and iron rebar while also smashing concrete blocks to pieces. These monster scissors have an overwhelming presence: They look like a Tyrannosaurus with its jaws wide open.

Visitors to the museum can enjoy watching a video that shows how the hydraulic excavator with huge scissors works.

Another exhibit is a crane outfitted with a spidery arm that can be extended to reach a height of 28 feet. The crane can be folded up into a package just 2.2 feet wide. In this form, it can move through narrow spaces to be used indoors.

The exhibition also displays a pair of “visualization” goggles. The device enables a user to see three-dimensional images of objects that are normally hidden from view, such as underground water pipes, based on their design drawings.

The most unusual-looking heavy machine in the exhibit has two arms and four legs and resembles a robot. This futuristic machine is a result of efforts to pursue new possibilities for hydraulic excavators.

Built by Hitachi Construction Machinery Co., the machine’s four legs can move independently of each other and be made to stabilize its body even while standing on an inclined surface.

Visitors look at gigantic scissors for cutting steel beams and reinforcing bars, or crushing a mass of concrete at the "Kojichu!" exhibition.