To guidein Japan
It was a long weekend in May and the cherry trees were in full bloom in Goryōkaku Park. Arriving at Ninohashi, the “Second Bridge” that leads into the park proper, I found myself drawn to a small boathouse nearby. Painted on the boathouse door was a large pair of white wings. Couples and children were lined up to pose between the wings for photographs, with the occasional person jumping in the air for an action shot. One by one, the visitors to the park transformed into radiant, winged angels.
The artist behind the wings was none other than the owner of the boat rental service, Noda Yumiko. Inspired by participatory artwork she encountered in Los Angeles, she took a bucket of white paint and executed the wings in one painting session.
Yumiko is the fourth generation of her family to run the boat rental service. His great-grandfather founded the company during the Taishō era (1912-1926), and it has remained in business ever since, weathering even the storms of war. In two years, it will celebrate its centenary. All kinds of people sit at the oars: children on school trips, couples, grandfathers. I remember well the blisters I had myself a long time ago on board one of these boats.
When the moat freezes over, the boat rental business naturally comes to a halt, and Yumiko spends this time with her Finnish partner, a former boat rental customer. The two split their time equally between Goryōkaku and Finland. There is no doubt that an angel with outstretched wings was at the origin of the first happy meeting that brought them together.
Noda boat rental shop
Access: 10 minutes on foot from the Goryōkaku-Kōen-Mae stop on the Hakodate City Tram.
(Originally published in Japanese.)