Japanese Miniatures: The 1/8th Project

July 5, 2022 By arne hendriks Off

Our series on Japanese Miniatures investigates the specific Japanese small scale sensitivity as expressed through a love for things like bonsai, sushi, netsuke, and capsule hotels. Perhaps Japan ‘knows’ things about smallness that may help us embrace the desire for less.

The 1/8th Project is an episode in the 1966 series Ultra Q. It features a pilot experiment run by the Japanese government to reduce human beings to an eighth of their size as a possible solution to overcrowding. In that way it is a bit of prequel to research projects like The Incredible Shrinking Man, and a film like Downsizing. In the episode a reporter accidentally gets involved in the project in Tokyo. Shut and then shrunk in a glass chamber, she wakes up to find herself reduced to the size of a pencil. Our miniature protagonist then has a series of misadventures that include being imprisoned for trespassing, escaping from prison, being “man-handled” by a couple of giddy nuns, and ending up in a downsized metropolis for the shrunken human beings. Eventually she wakes up and it all turns out to have been a dream. Eventually the episode sort of surprisingly ends with the words: “A long time ago people from the stone age stood 18 meters tall with waists that were 5 meters round. So why are the people of today so small? And how and why did we become like this?” These final words presume a shrinking event has already taken place and that contemporary people are in fact the decedents of people much taller then we are now. Even if from archeological evidence we know this not to be true, it is in itself an interesting speculation that embeds the fantasy of becoming smaller in a falsely presumed past. We once stood on the shoulders of giants, and then we climbed down. Except we didn’t yet, and we should.