November 26, 12 | Takako Chiba
The Hakodate Jomon Cultural Exchange Center opened on October 1st, 2011. The center's first permanent exhibition is a national treasure found only here in Hokkaido, "Chuku Dogu" or hollow clay figures.
These figures were found in Hakodate's Kayabe district (formerly Minami Kayabe Town) by a local farmer's wife while working in her field in August of 1975. They are affectionately nicknamed "Kakku," a combination of the "Kaya" from "Minami Kayabe" and the "Ku" from their real name "Kyuku Dogu."
These hollow figures sport elaborate detailing on a thin layer of clay from head to toe. The patterns on the figures, which were excavated from a tomb, are a beautiful representation of the late Jomon Period (about 3,500 years ago). The materials used were extremely valuable during this period, and the spectacularly high quality of this figure made it an easy choice to be named Hokkaido's first national treasure in 2007.
This figure can be found in exhibition room 4 of the center, a room which has a mysterious feeling to it. The longer I stood and looked at "Kakku," the more it felt like it was just on the verge of speaking...
▲ "Although it seems to have masculine features, it's actually a woman. The more you look at it the more you'll be drawn in by its mysterious charm." says Mr. Shimbo, a curator at the center.
Also on display at the Hakodate Jomon Cultural Exchange Center are clay vessels and stone tools excavated from the ruins. As you walk through the exhibition you'll get a taste of everyday life in the Jomon period, the kind of people that lived and their outlook on life and spirituality. Seeing the elaborate patterns and decorations on their pottery and arrowheads, it's clear that creativity was very rich in the Jomon period.
The center also offers hands-on learning which you can participate in without making reservations. When I visited the center to research this article the staff were preparing for a Jomon period knitting class using natural fibers.
There is also a fair amount of merchandise only available here in Hakodate. Cell phone straps with a "Kakku" design, calligraphy pens, and many other stylish items are available as mementos or souvenirs.
● 函館市縄文文化交流センター (Hakodate Jomon Cultural Exchange Center)
Location: 551-1 Usujiri Town, Hakodate
TEL : 0138-25-2030
■ Hours of Admission:
(From April 1st to October 31st) 9:00-5:00
(From November 1st to March 31st) 9:00-4:30
■ Closed on Mondays, the day after a holiday, the last Friday of each month, and for New Years.
■ Entrance Fee:
General Admission - 300 Yen.
Children and Student Admission - 150 Yen.
Preschoolers - No Charge.
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
(Photographs provided by Shinji Semboku and the Hakodate Jomon Cultural Exchange Center)