This post is not going to come with a huge amount of text, but I do feel I should start with an apology to the French Canadian women who joined us on our tour of Aso-san, Kyushu, with the very wonderful Helen from Explore Kumamoto. There'll be more on our tour in a future post but suffice to say that if you are heading to Kumamoto and want to see the area then you NEED to hook up with Helen. Anyway, the apology to our fellow tourists is due as we missed a visit to sake brewery for what you can see here.
I guess we should start with a bit of background. A and I have spent a huge amount of our time watching NHK World, the English language channel from Japan's national broadcaster. Amongst a slew of wonderful programming some of the standout gems are Journey's in Japan and Document 72h, with the latter being a real favourite. This is the type of TV show that you don't seem to get in the UK any more; you get a real insight into the culture of Japan.
So why is NHK's programming relevant? Well, a couple of the programs we have seen have highlighted a real problem in rural areas, migration to the cities. This is not unusual in itself, the countryside is being denuded of young people the world over. In Japan this can, however, be so extreme that whole villages are being abandoned, or are being left with only a few old residents. It is how those that remain sometimes deal with this which is really interesting.
In some cases, the populace is replaced with dolls...life-size dolls! An example of this phenomenon is found in Nagoro, Shikoko, which has been pretty well documented. Suffice to say that A and I almost squealed with excitement when we drove past this roadside feature somewhere in Aso-san. This happened in the morning, and we spent much of the day making sure our desire to return was very clear!
As you can probably guess, we did indeed return and spent a happy few minutes exploring and various tableaux and making a whole bunch of pictures. Most of the scenes seem to depict typical life in Japan (the Royal wedding excepted) and it was really fascinating to see the results of someone's hard labour.
We believe the dummies were, in this case, made by a local school. The area certainly was pretty thriving and certainly was not well off the beaten track (unlike the aforementioned Nagoro). The workmanship was brilliant though, as was the insight into what was clearly important to the local kids (assuming these were made by a school).
Sadly the light was failing by the time we got back from the rest of tour so we didn't have a huge amount of time, not to mention the rain which was teeming down. Still, for me at least this was definitely a positive experience, even if I (and others) did miss getting whacked out on sake as a result.
As before, all images were made on Kodak Portra, with developing and scanning by the ever wonderful Canadian Film Lab.