A visit to Isamu Noguchi’s Moerenuma Park

Moerenuma Park is a sprawling space that’s the tight execution of Isamu Noguchi’s vision for a “park that is considered to be one complete sculpture”. It’s a beautifully manicured piece of land, without the controlled, uptightness of a picture perfect golf course.

It’s a 40 minute bus ride from central Sapporo City and this view was the first hint that a very lovely day awaited.

Tetra Mound

I’ve been wanting to visit The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture for a while. Unfortunately, the park requires that reservations be made two weeks ahead of time by return post. Return post! Even with a few trips to Takamatsu in the past two years, I haven’t managed to be organized enough to buy pull this off.

Note: Looking for the English link, I just realized that foreign visitors can make reservations by fax or e-mail. Okay, that’s one step up but can we just teach then how to use Google Forms or something?

However, Morenuma Park is a public park. One can just wander in, much as I did after a kind stranger vaguely pointed me in a general direction. The grounds start and end without so much as a hello.

Playground pilgrimage

There were so many kids running around.

During domestic travel, I’m often jolted by how many children and elderly people there are, but it’s somewhat of a perception issue. Being pleasantly reassured or abruptly reminded of decreasing birthrates and an ageing society can be misleading. While travelling, there is naturally more time to walk through different parts of town during different parts of the day. What we “see” during our daily lives isn’t really reflective of the national demographic pyramid.

Elementary school field trip

Young mothers pretending not to see the 'no swimming allowed' sign

Speaking of different attributes, I found that many people travel around Hokkaido alone. The ratty guestbooks on the hostel desks were full of personal anecdotes about solitary trips in pursuit of liberation – people who had just quit their jobs, gotten over a bad breakup, or just left home on a whim.

On my first day here though, I didn’t know that this fellow would be the first of many that I would see.

A moment atop Play Mountain

Get more than two Japanese people on a long flight of stairs, and chances are that they will start playing Guriko. A popular children’s game, Guriko is a version of rock, paper, scissors that determines the number of steps you can take, according to which hand you win by. Watch this cute YouTube video of some kids in action.

University students playing GuRiKo while climbing down Mt. Moere

Lunch was a tasty bento box from a takeout place within the Glass Pyramid, accompanied by Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!.

Swamplandia! is a novel about a family of alligator wrestlers living in the Florida swamps. I’d picked it up on a lark, perhaps as a subconscious mood onramp for a visit to the Kushiro Wetlands the following day. (And who can resist an adventure about alligator wrestlers?)


Photo from artpark.or.jp

Is there something about Sapporo and sculptures?

Besides from Moerenuma, there’s the Sapporo Art Park, an outside museum of sculptures. It seems there are many other large sets of sculptures that can be seen around town, according to this fantastic roundup from Sapporo Sansaku [ja].

Also, the first thing that caught my eye upon arriving at Sapporo Station was Yasuda Kan’s sculpture, Myomu. I had to laugh. There’s also one in Midtown. You know, it’s the one that looks like a demented donut, except ours is black.

After a scant 24 hours in Sapporo, what I’ll remember about this city is its affinity for sculptures.

Further reading:

Even the cones look like part of an installation

Colorful traffic cones join the fun

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