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Time capsules are the first known deliberate attempts to record the present for the benefit of mankind in the far distant future. They are a phenomenon of our age. Modern man knows much about the past, through the work of archaeologists and historians, and he is well informed about the present; science has opened our eyes to the workings of life and the cause and effect of human behaviour on a global scale. Thus, unlike ancient man;whose life was brief and dictated by forces beyond his knowledge or control, modern man lives long and he is aware of the world around him. He is also aware that by his personal effort he can create a better life for himself and for his children. He is inspired to pass on this knowledge, and time capsules are part of this inspiration.
Thus, in the planning and preparation of Time Capsule Expo '70, the people involved were intensely aware of the need to pass on a vivid and complete picture of life today, including its best and worst aspects, its triumphs and its tragedies. Above all, was the desire to pass on the spirit of the age as epitomised by the theme of the Japan World Exposition, 1970: "Progress and Harmony for Mankind"
In many ways, Japan is a microcosm of the world condition at the present time. It is highly industrialised and centralised, applying the most advanced scientific knowledge in every sphere of life. Yet it is rich in traditions retained from previous centuries. Every concern of the world as a whole is a concern of Japan also. The threat of nuclear war, atmospheric pollution, dwindling supplies of energy resources and the natural hazards of earthquake, storm and flood are as real to the Japanese people as they are to people of any other race. And the Japanese people have an equal share of happiness and sadness in everyday life.
The average Japanese family possesses most, if not all, of the gadgets of a labour-saving society - colour television, telephone, washing machine, refrigerator, sewing machine and so on. Every domestic convenience is available and made affordable through mass production. Workers travel on high-speed trains or in modern automobiles; children play with space-age toys. And yet, for most Japanese, the small pleasures of life still lie in traditional things like the comfort of a cotton kimono on a warm summer evening, the feel of Tatami mats under the feet, simple Japanese food, a tiny garden viewed from the verandah. Festivals based on ancient Shinto and Buddhist rituals still attract large crowds; around three million people visited Tokyo's Meiji shrine during the first three days of New Year, 1979. Japanese television programmes reflect a unique blend of West and East. The latest domestic and world news, documentaries and popular music programmes are inserted between serious studies of ancient Japanese history, kabuki plays, classical dances, folk song contests and samurai dramas.
Many people express regret at the passing of Old Japan. But few Japanese house-wives would wish to live the lives of their grandmothers who, having no automatic electric rice cooker, rose at dawn to boil the breakfast rice in an iron pot over a wood fire. Country life was picturesque enough, but it was also hard and uncertain. The use of modern machines and fertilizers has drastically reduced the labour involved in rice cultivation so that the modern farmer has time for leisure and no fear of famine should the crop fail. Looked at from this point of view, the modernisation of Japan has been infinitely beneficial.
In the year 2000 – when the upper capsule, No. 2, is opened for the first time – it may well seem that 1970 was a point of ideal balance between Old and New Japan. At Expo '70, towering ultra-modern constructions of steel and plastic stood alongside graceful wooden pavilions and water gardens, as in Japanese streets serene old houses rub shoulders with concrete apartment buildings offering all the conveniences of modern life. As the contents of the capsules demonstrate in rich and colourful detail, Japan looks back over centuries of a unique and rewarding culture and forward to one which is no less rewarding in its capacity to make life more leisurely more comfortable and more secure.
The contents of this site are excerpted from THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF TIME CAPSULE EXPO'70(March 1975). Please note that company and organization names may differ from those of the current ones.
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