KEK Opens Its Doors, Guests Tour Facility

Japan’s KEK opened its doors in early September and nearly 4,000 visitors braved the late summer heat for a tour of the high energy accelerator research facility.

Organizers used the event to showcase the planned International Linear Collider (ILC) project. Visitors were taken behind the scenes at two ILC test installations, the Advanced Accelerator Test Facility and the Superconducting RF test facility. Masashi Yamanaka, head of KEK’s Mechanical Engineering Center, also held a lecture on ILC superconducting RF cavity production.

The newly branded Science X Hello Kitty was also in attendance, welcoming visitors at the souvenir store. This new iteration of the pop icon was designed in collaboration between Sanrio and Japan’s Advanced Accelerator Association for promoting the still unauthorized ILC project to the Japanese public.

“We are expecting reactions like, ‘who is this Hello Kitty wearing glasses?’ or ‘What is this L mark in the middle of Hello Kitty’s bow?” says Hiroyuki Yoshizumi, chair of outreach division at AAA. “Hello Kitty will help us reach an audience we never had a chance to reach before.”

ILC uses the science Hello Kitty for outreach at public events and through its social media channels. Facebook and Twitter messages featuring the character are reaching more users than traditional posts, according to AAA.

Kids on the tour also had opportunities to pose with the Higg-kun and Captain Fukkun characters or to participate in an ILC experiment game that explained how scientists find new particles or new phenomena with accelerator experiments. Participants wrote papers and were awarded prizes, including the Elephant Zobel prize (Zo meaning elephant in Japanese), the Chicken Peep-bel prize and the Cat Mew-bel prize.