“A mosquito net museum?” Lynn had just rattled that off along with a number of other museums in Naramachi.
“It’s called a mosquito net museum on this map, but a mosquito net shop on this one,” she explained, gesturing to the area map and her own paper version. “Either way it sounds terribly exciting.”
“Let’s go to whichever museum we can find first,” I suggested. It was pouring—one of those hard, slanting rains that soaks your feet and legs despite your umbrella.
We found the calligraphy museum, a low, modern building obviously purpose-built to protect its contents. We paid the paltry admission fee—I think it was $1.50—and were directed to the first floor—what we Americans call the second floor. We were the only visitors.
A table laden with colorful posters about art exhibits and performances around town caught our eye. We each slid a couple in our bags.
“I always do this—pick up beautiful free things and take them home, only to find it will cost $100 to get them framed.” Knowing this, I later slipped them into a recycling bin.
The exhibit room was dark but lighted up as we entered.
“Oh, I see, it’s just one room,” Lynn remarked. And it was—just one room with about 10 pieces of calligraphy by “the great calligrapher Kason Sugioka.” The whole building was dedicated to him. No photos were allowed but I found this image of one of his works online.
My impulse was to say, “Check!” turn on my heels, and move on to the next museum. But that would have felt disrespectful. So we sat on benches and looked at the pieces—really tried to see them. It was weird to be in a small silent room contemplating what—to me—looked like scribbles.
“I’m trying to see what is so special or different about his work,” I whispered to Lynn, “But I am obviously too much of a philistine.”
“Me too,” she replied.
I was being serious. If enough people went to the trouble of building and maintaining a whole building in honor of this guy, he must be something very special. I wondered how many years it would take of practicing or looking at calligraphy in order to appreciate the differences. Maybe some people walked into this room and went “Wow! These are so obviously superior!”
There was a second room downstairs that displayed works by other calligraphers in honor of Sugioka. One was a woman, that’s all I remember.
There was a reference library, and a children’s corner where kids could try their hands at calligraphy. Lynn and I hovered over it and exchanged glances that said, “Should we try it? No!!”
“At this rate we’ll be done for the day by noon,” Lynn said as we exited.
But then we found the toy museum, which was delightful. We were the only visitors. This museum, which was free, had two rooms. Low tables were set up with antique toys.
A volunteer demonstrated each toy. Some were extremely simple, like the cup and ball.
I have to say, this place elicited my inner kid, which is not a frequent occurrence and felt great.
After a half hour of play, it was time for lunch. Since it was still pouring, we stepped into the first place we found.
“I wouldn’t recommend the hot sand and pizza,” Lynn cautioned.
“No … sounds hard on the teeth.”
But they had a great set lunch for about $12. I would call it “Japanese nouveau cuisine meets antioxidant blowout.”
We drank tea and talked for an hour, then stumbled upon the mosquito net shop. As the name implies, it sold mosquito nets of all shapes and colors. The one below is similar to ones Lynn and I have slept under in malarial regions.
“Which makes me wonder,” I said, “I understood I wouldn’t need Malarone in Japan. And I haven’t noticed any mosquitoes here.”
“Yes, why is there a whole shop dedicated to mosquito nets?” Lynn asked. The owner lurked behind a mosquito net, keeping an eye on us but making clear he was not interested in talking, so we will never know.