People with dreams. You meet a surprising number of them in Japan, and I’ve come across a guy who had been studying German for fifteen years because he wanted to ask German people about the Holocaust, a woman who has visited every single one of Kyoto’s over 2000 temples, and a college student whose goal in life is to get a perfect 990 on the TOEIC test, to name just a few.
On a recent trip to Takayama city in Gifu Prefecture, I came across another man with a dream, Nobuo Kuratsubo. He owns a sculpture shop, and one day while looking at a giant 1000-year-old cedar tree, he was inspired to create the world’s tallest wood carvings. The result is the very quirky “Seven Gods of Good Fortune Museum.”
The Shichifukujin are seven Gods, most of whom were imported from China, and are believed to bring good luck and prosperity to people. They are often worshipped at New Year’s time, when people visit shrines dedicated to them in hopes of bringing themselves good fortune in the coming year.
The statues are five to seven meters tall and weight between six and fifteen tons. They’re carved from cedar and chestnut trees that range in age from 700 to 1200 years of age.
Unfortunately, this story has a bit of an unhappy ending. Mr. Kuratsubo hoped to set a world record for the largest wooden sculptures, but a letter outside the entrance from the Guiness Book of World Records informs him that there are totem poles in Canada which just edge out his sculptures in terms of height. The place doesn’t seem to get many visitors, and is getting pretty dilapidated, but it’s still worth a visit if you go to the nearby Hida no Sato Folk Village. Mr. Kuratsubo hangs around the statue and will happily tell you his story and answer questions about the statues if you speak Japanese.
Ebisu and Daikoku-ten
Getting there: Take the Sarunopopo Bus from Takayama station. There are two buses, but you want the Shiki no Oka Ko-su. Admission to the Shichi Fukujin Museum is 500 yen. Departures from Takayama station are at:
Return buses are at: