[Skip Town in Hokkaido] Shigechan Land
I’m quite excited about today’s post. It’s about a place I doubt you’ll have seen or heard of before, a place that turned out to be an unexpected highlight of our trip. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the plan was to join the newly married couple for a road trip to “The End of the World”, otherwise known as Shiretoko National Park. It’s a long drive, so after several hours of super green, beautiful scenery (‘real’ Japanese countryside at last!) we eventually, at Emily’s suggestion, turned off the main highway, made a few turns down increasingly small roads, and paid a visit to Shigechan Land, a gallery she’d heard about and thought we might like.
You’ve never been anywhere like this, I assure you! The artist, Shigenari Ohnishi, was formerly a successful art director and commercial artist, before succumbing to the charms of country life and setting up Shigechan Land in 1996. Here, he has the freedom to create whatever he likes – namely, an army of odd creatures constructed from anything and everything.
Shigechan Land is made up of a collection of rustic buildings painted the same shade of rusty red as the old arched barns we passed along the way. Each building is named after a body part (‘Eye House’, ‘Bone House’, etc.) and inside you’ll find a collection of the most bizarre characters you can imagine. In one room, gnarled pieces of wood are revealed as woodland monsters, while in another, hundreds of peanut men look out over Coke can skiers and a coat-hanger bird. I swear he can find a face in just about anything!
Make no mistake, this ‘cute’ style is actually the culmination of a long exploration of different styles since his days as a student at the NY School of Visual Arts in the 1970′s. What I think is interesting is that for a long time he was right into super-realism, but is now devoted to such a lo-fi craft.
I just find his characters completely wonderful. If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, you’ve got to go along.
*Photography by Sean Fennessy