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From distinguished lecturers to scientific scholars to visiting curators to volunteers to leaders in their respective fields, we often invite guest authors to contribute content to our blog. You'll find a wealth of information written by these fascinating individuals as we seek to expand your level of knowledge with every post.

Kanpai! Kuraray toasts to harmony and good fortune with traditional Kagamiwari Ceremony

Editor’s Note: This post was provided by Kuraray, local sponsor to the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior on display now at HMNS.

Kagami-biraki is a traditional Japanese ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of a sake barrel is broken open with a wooden mallet and the sake subsequently served. The kagami is a symbol of harmony and the kagami-biraki, represents opening to harmony and good fortune.

Recently, Kuraray purchased the MonoSol company, the global market-leading manufacturer of water-soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) films. Their products are used around the world and touch our lives every day. Monodose films are MonoSol’s fastest-growing product; these are water-soluble films used in products such as Cascade Complete, Tide Pods, Purex Ultrapacks, and other brands of single-dose dishwashing or laundry detergent.

Japanese-based Kuraray held the traditional Japanese Kagamiwari Ceremony at the MonoSol headquarters upon completing the purchase. This ritual of breaking open of a barrel of sake (Japanese rice wine) is a popular custom in Japan. It is performed at special celebrations such as the New Year, a wedding, an anniversary, or the opening of a new business. When the cask of sake is cracked open with a wooden mallet the sake is ladled to wooden masu (cups) and given to the participants, who then toast in Japanese, shouting “Kampai!” Literally translated, kagamiwari means “the opening of a mirror” or “breaking the mirror open.” Kuraray holds events like this for plant openings, dedications, and other important celebrations.

Watch the video below for footage of a Kuraray ground breaking event in Texas, including a Kagamiwari Ceremony.

The acquisition of MonoSol, one of the largest PVOH users in the United States, supports Kuraray’s strategy to expand its vinyl acetate chemical chain business around the world. Through this acquisition, Kuraray expanded its product offering of PVOH films into a wider range of industrial applications, thereby enhancing the company’s competitiveness. Kuraray currently supplies “Poval” PVOH film for optical uses, including a polarizing film, which is an essential component of liquid crystal displays. 

Want to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions? Visit HMNS to see Samurai: The Way of the Warrior,on display through September 7, 2015. Local support for this exhibit is provided by Kuraray.

The Secret Handshake: Presenting Business Cards in Japan

Editor’s Note: This post was provided by Kuraray, local sponsor to the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior on display now at HMNS.

“Do you have a card?” is a phrase uttered daily in American business. To us, it’s a piece of paper. We take notes on them, stuff them in our pockets and hopefully file them for future easy access.

But, in Japan, business cards are considered extensions of the individual — formal self-introductions that are treated with the utmost respect.

As such, “meishi koukan” (the exchanging of business cards) commands a distinct level of etiquette, complete with its own process:

  • Remove cards from an actual business card case prior to the meeting and place them on top.
  • Beginning with visitors, highest-ranking attendees exchange cards first. This helps the Japanese learn who is in command.
  • Hold card on the top corner with right hand and offer it with the information facing out. Left hand holds the case.
  • Briefly introduce yourself as you present the card, stating your name and company.
  • When other person reciprocates, receive card with your left hand. Carefully read the information. Restate the person’s name and thank them.
  • Display cards received during the meeting, arranging them from left to right in the order of seating (from your point of view). Learn the names of the people you are speaking with and show respect.

Other tips to remember:

  • Never stuff a card into your pocket – it’s considered extremely rude.
  • It is a direct insult to bend, damage or write on the card in front of the owner.
  • Always maintain an ample supply of cards. You may distribute dozens in a larger meeting, and give multiples to the same person.

Despite these rules, every situation will be slightly different and your Japanese counterparts may have another understanding of what is considered protocol. When in doubt, always err on the side of showing respect and politeness.

 Want to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions? Visit HMNS to see Samurai: The Way of the Warrior, on display through September 7, 2015. Local support for this exhibit is provided by Kuraray.

 

Einstein Scavenger Hunt: Guess That Hall!

Editor’s note: This post was created by HMNS Concierge and Discovery Guide Corey Green.

Einstein at HMNS

 

Our good friend Einstein came to visit the museum and went through many of our exhibit halls. Can you name the halls he’s pictured in? (Click the pictures for answers!)

Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS Einstein at HMNS

 Want to go on a scavenger hunt with your very own Einstein? Good news! You can get him at the Museum Store!

 

 

HMNS Birthdays: Are you a party smarty?

Editor’s note: This post was written by HMNS Birthday Party Assistant Manager. 

We have had the proud honor of hosting 460 birthday parties at the Houston Museum of Natural Science this past year!

We have enjoyed the new faces of guests having their party with us for the first time, as well as welcoming back many of our wonderful families to celebrate another year together. With our team of amazing birthday coordinators, we have marched over 6,000 children through our halls, explored a living rain forest, discovered new depths to our solar system, taken a trip back in time to when Pharaohs roamed the earth, and even held roaring contests between 100 million year old dinosaursWhat’s even more exciting is that we live in a city that is an international smorgasbord, which means that we have held parties with people from all over the world. In fact, we now have a wall of flags from every country that we have hosted, and we are currently up to 25! And yes, our flags are hand created out of fuse beads…we are the birthday party department after all. With each country comes new customs that are both fascinating and intriguing for us to experience with the family. From the formal cake cutting ceremonies of India, extravagant dessert tables of Brazil, spitting on the birthday child to ward off the evil eye of Greece, to ear-pulling, smash cakes, and even celebrating a child’s 8th and final birthday party (not morbid I promise!, but because their culture does not celebrate birthdays after 8), we love it all! And if you have never heard anyone sing happy birthday in Poland, it’s an experience I would highly recommend.

But no matter where you are from or what language you say happy birthday in, the important thing is that every child gets to feel special on their birthday, which is what we strive to do each and every time.

So thank you for another great year, and we look forward to helping you celebrate future birthdays here at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Perhaps you will even help us add more flags and experiences to our story. And remember to check back with us for new and exciting party options coming in the new year.
 
Until then, we will keep the party going just  for you.