Angel of the Boat Rental

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To travel

It was a long weekend in May and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom in Goryōkaku Park. Upon arriving at Ninohashi, the “Second Bridge” that leads to the park itself, I found myself drawn to a small boathouse nearby. Painted on the boathouse door was a large pair of white wings. Couples and children lined up to pose between the wings for photographs, with the occasional person leaping into the air for an action shot. One by one, park visitors transformed into beaming, winged angels.

The artist behind the scenes was none other than the owner of the boat rental service, Noda Yumiko. Inspired by the participatory artwork she encountered in Los Angeles, she took a bucket of white paint and executed the wings in one painting session.

Noda Yumiko, fourth generation owner. (2019)

Yumiko is the fourth generation in her family to run the boat rental business. Her great-grandfather founded the company during the Taishō era (1912-1926), and it has been in business ever since, resisting even the storms of war. In two years, it will celebrate its centenary. All kinds of people sit on the oars: children on school trips, couples, grandfathers. I well remember the blisters I myself had while rowing on one of these boats a long time ago.

Famous second-generation owner Yumiko's grandmother pushes a boat with passengers on the water.  (2005)
Famous second-generation owner Yumiko’s grandmother pushes a boat with passengers on the water. (2005)

When the moat freezes, the boat rental business naturally comes to a halt, and Yumiko spends this time with her Finnish partner, a former boat rental customer. The two split their time equally between Goryōkaku and Finland. There is no doubt that an angel with outstretched wings is at the origin of the first happy meeting that brought them together.

Angel in jeans.  (2019)
Angel in jeans. (2019)

Noda boat rental shop

Access: 10-minute walk from the Goryōkaku-Kōen-Mae stop of the Hakodate City Tramway.

(Click to see the map)

(Originally published in Japanese.)

tourism
Hokkaido
Hakodate
Northern Japan in black and white


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