Autumn (Tokyo Studio)

Hakuro: Flocks of birds gather grain/ swallows leave (1 of 5)

September 20th, 2008

Hakuro 11 of 15On a visit to Ikebukuro, it is hard to miss the locality’s owl theme. There are owl sculptures at the train station exits, owls adorned street lighting posts, owls trickets are on sale everywhere, even the Koban (police station) east of the station is shaped like an owl. Puzzled, I tried to find out more on the internet and the best explanation of this obsessesion offered is a word-play between ‘bukuro’ ぶくろ and ‘fukuro’ ふくろぅ(with a double vowel at the end). But I also found out that Toshima-ku (Toshima district which Ikebukuro is located within) has an owl museum (Toshima Mimizuku Museum) housed at the Minami-Ikebukuro elementary school. So we went.

There, we were greeted by the most enthusiastic Ikezawa san (bottom-right, who offered us cups of cofffee and tell us everything about owls). He pointed out the poster he created at the entrance to the small museum. It is a map of Toshima-ku – indeed the district is shaped like an owl. He also explained that in Japan, owls with no decorative plumage atop their crowns are called ‘fukuro’ while owls with ear-tufts (not actually their ears) on their heads are known as ‘mimizuku’ みみずく, also known as horned-owl. (Mimizuku is also a genus that belongs to the Typical owl family). Prior to Meiji, owls were regarded as an animal that can guard and protect children from ill-health (top-right).

The owl museum was set up as a result of a donation to the city of Toshima of 8,000 owl related artifacts by an emeritus professor of Tokyo Univeristy from his 12,000 pieces collection. Ikezawa san was given the job to set up the museum. He is now retired but works at the museum on Saturadays and Sundays. He does not only create the posters for the museum (using mostly of his own photographs!), he also made ceramic owl figures to sell for 500 yen as a way to raise some money for this Mimizuku-spot.

For more information see the website Ikezawa san set up, if you can’t read Japanese, there are pictures.

One Response to “Hakuro: Flocks of birds gather grain/ swallows leave (1 of 5)”

  1. 1 Gregor in Port Kembla
    September 22nd, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Dear Jo & Redmond

    We arrived in Ikebukuro early in the morning in 2001 to be greeted by the cold call of crows. They [the crows] all seemed to live in the one or two large trees near the station. On our next stay in Ikebukuro we will have to look out for the owl museum. Postcard arrived safe and well today, look forward to those that will follow.

    The radio has issued a storm warning for this afternoon. I like a good storm from the south knowing all the crap from the steel works will be blown up north. Myth has it that BHP turns off all the pollution control equipment in a big southerly and lets it rip.

    We have a owl living in our back yard along with the crows. A Southern Boobook, I saw it perched on the colourbond hence.

    Enjoy the weather