Getting to know the locals is an essential part of blending and feeling comfortable in a foreign culture. Luckily for me I have found Japanese people to be very welcoming, particularly in the northern Tohoku region of the country. One of my Japanese co-teachers even invited me on a trip to stay with his family for a few days. That’s how I first went to Akita with a friend.

The journey started off great, with spectacular views and irritating video games but little did I know what bizarre wonders awaited me. Yutaka is quite a trigger-happy fellow when it comes to photography so I’ll let his pictures do most of the talking.

Art and Pretty Stuff

We visited more than one museum but I’m sorry to say my memory cogs are just too rusty to recall names or even vague locations. I do remember visiting an Osamu Tezuka museum (not this one), which displayed a lot of the legendary manga artist’s work alongside memorabilia and photos of his life.

I also know we went to a proper art museum that held a wonderful exhibit by an artist who used coloured paper arranged across light-boxes to create delightfully vivid images. I really liked them. I liked them so much that I bought a postcard. That’s what I do when I appreciate art – buy tiny replicas which get propped somewhere in a disordered room, only to inevitably fall behind a bookcase and remain there, gathering dust, until the day they return to the light only for their origin to have been forgotten.

Or a keychain.

Art

It’s Tricky

At one point Yutaka suggested to me

Hey, let’s go to a Trick Art Museum.

and my instant response was to sigh. Two grown men going to a place where you could pretend you have the body of a woman or pose in a way that makes it look like you’re holding an elephant up with just one finger. Puh-leaze … so childish.

Long story short: it was amazing!

A Wonderland

One of my favourite characters from Jim Henson’s movie, Labyrinth, is the old crone that lives in a junkyard and tries to get Sarah to stay in a facsimile of Sarah’s room by presenting treasured items from her childhood (and thus stop her from reaching the castle of the Goblin King and rescuing her baby brother from David Bowie who reminds him of the babe. What babe? The babe with the power. What power? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie). What I always wondered about that garbage-dwelling-lady-puppet was what other kinds of crazy junk does she keep in that big ol’ hump of hers?

In a distant corner of Japan I found the answer to my question, and it was far more wondrous than I ever could have dreamed. My friend drove us to a place he claimed was

Interesting.

When we arrived I had to re-adjust my senses as various forms of “Why?”/“What?”/“Huh?” pummelled by reasoning centre. It was as if all the left-over, unsold items from every flea market and car boot sale across the globe had been dumped into one rusted, rickety, ramshackle old barn and at least half of it had burst forth and splattered out like a pimple across the surrounding yard. Impressive doesn’t quite cover it and disturbing isn’t correct either. It was like a spectacular distopian wonderland of the unwanted, unneeded and unloved.

What It’s All About

In the end, the real wonder of my trip to Akita with a friend was the warm embrace I received from Yutaka and his family. I was welcomed to their home like an old friend and despite language barriers communication between us was strong. I’m lucky to have met these people; I wonder if they know what a fond picture they’ve painted in my memory.

Have you ever visited Akita prefecture in Japan? What did you think? Let us know below!

Thank you for reading – please check out Part 1!

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