We've spent the holiday week in Inuyama, a semi-rural area about 30 minutes by express train from Nagoya. The train station nearest to our hotel is so small that it only has one ticket machine and you talk to the station master via an intercom. Yet the crafts people in this very low key, low-tech community have contributed to, and inspired, a significant amount of Japanese humanoid and robot development. In some ways it may contributed to the success that Toyota, located nearby, has had with robotics and automation.
During our visit we had the opportunity to examine some of their work close up, and talk to some of the people involved in traditional Japanese karakuri (automata) and the festival floats that feature them. The similarity to humanoid robots was striking, although many of the Karakuri techniques predate modern robotics by quite a few centuries. As usual, people were very open, friendly, and willing to share a lot of the background and details. We'll be putting together a detailed post with photos and some video footage as soon as we return from vacation next week.