Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Abandoned in Onomichi

Seika Ryo (Holy Flower Dormitory): an abandoned dormitory for nurses

Onomichi is a small seaside town in southeast Hiroshima. Yasujiro Ozu shoot ending scenes of Tokyo Story in Onomichi. I want to introduce this fascinating, quaint town with a web of narrow, steep, winding paths to you. I've been this town countless times, and each time I find new aspects that I didn't see from the previous visit.

This is the 4th of Onomichi series.* I've been explaining how charming Onomichi is, but today I'll tackle some of the challenges modern Onomichi is facing.      

Onomichi does have lots of abandoned houses. Like any other mid to small sized towns in Japan, the increasing senior population is a big challenge of the town.The hilly residential landscape is very charming for visitors but for the aging population, the terrain could be a huge barrier to conduct their everyday life.

*For the past series, see: The Landscape of Yasujiro Ozu, Onomichi Landscape: Local Belifes, and Onomichi Landscape: Commercial Space

Vending machine, Mukaishima Island

I've seen two male care takers holding the sides of an old lady to climb up the stairs. She was showing an appreciation to the young guys' hard work, but it also means even getting out from her house, she has to be always thankful to others. By experience, I know a nice Japanese person like her doesn't want others be "bothered" by her "demand," so she stays quiet suppressing what she really wants to do.  

The hilly terrain with narrow, winding roads is what makes Onomichi special, but what do residnts do if a fire breaks out? How can a fire engine get into the neighborhood? A bucket relay must have been a traditional method to cease fire.

I'm mentioning a fire because I've met an old gentleman who was willing to share his childhood memory to me, explaining how Onomichi was decimated by a series of air laid during World War II. Coming from the City of Hiroshima, his word made me realize how I had been ignorant with the fact that other cities in Hiroshima also experienced bombings.

How can people with limited mobility escape if a tsunami hits the town? Luckily, Hiroshima's inland ocean is very, very placid, but the earthquake in 2011 reminded us how coastal cities in Japan were vulnerable to a natural disaster.

There are some good news. Young artists and entrepreneurs are moving to abandoned houses, renovating them for their own ateliers, bakeries, B&Bs, or cafes. No matter how difficult it is, Onomichi has been an inspiring place for people with independent spirit.

Ok, enough serious talks. Let's go for some werid stuff:

Monkey Sedan Chair

Yes, it's an abandoned amusement ride. Two monkeys carrying a sedan chair. A kid could sit on the chair. It's fun, I think.

I know, it's totally weird. You know what, I just realized you might not notice those brown creatures are a stylized form of Japanese macaques!  It's much weirder if you know the ride is modeled from a post war children's song about monkeys and a sedan chair. Please don't ask me why monkeys have to work as sedan chair carriers...You know, it looks kawaii.

File:Felice Beato Palanquin.jpg
Japanese sedan chair called Kago: from Wikipedia
Alert: the melody may stick to your head like the scorch on a skillet

Here we are, I got the song for ya. I'm 100% sure this melody was played as soon as a kid put some 10 yen (roughly 10 cents) coins into the money box. Gotta sit down on the chair. Be careful, the ride may be bumpy. Enjoy the ride, children.

Onomichi is full of fun, isn't it?

Beyond repair

Do I sound sarcastic? Too much nostalgia equals the sense of ennui, that's why.

Does the monkey fellow look mad at me????

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