Our family took a drive to Iiyama City north of Nagano City and adjacent to Niigata Prefecture. We timed it to see yellow fields of nanohana blossoms.
(Nanohana also has an unfortunate name in English: rapeweed. Allow me as I stick to the Japanese name, nanohana, which has a much more elegant feel.)
I had seen pictures of the fields filled with yellow flowers with the Chikuma River and Nagano’s ‘five northern peaks’ in the background. But pictures don’t do the flowers justice. For one thing, seeing them in person means you can enjoy the sweet scent of the flowers wafting on the breeze.
And for another reason, Iiyama’s main nanohana park, called simply enough ‘Nanohana Park’, has a nanohana maize allowing you to immerse yourself in the field amongst the plants bursting with yellow color.
The flowers normally bloom between mid April and early May, with special events scheduled from May 3rd to the 5th coinciding with Japan’s Golden Week holiday. This year, however, the blossoms are about a week later than usual.
Our drive to Iiyama had another purpose: to see the Mayumi Takahashi Doll Museum.
Opened just in April of last year, the museum has attracted visitors from all over Japan to see Mayumi-san’s unique dolls that adroitly depict the type of country bumpkins one is apt to see in Iiyama’s backroads.
The museum itself has limited display space, but that is more than compensated by the enjoyment that can be had from looking at each individual doll’s expression and composure, especially in relation to the background displays.
The doll museum is set in a neighborhood filled with traditional Japanese buildings. Especially impressive is ‘Butsudan-dori (street)’. A Butsudan is a Buddhist altar that most families in Japan have in a prominent place in their houses. I had heard that Iiyama is a major manufacturer of Butsudan, but I wasn’t aware that there was a whole street of Butsudan shops! I guess it makes sense, though, to have a Butsudan shopping district here in Japan.
There was an interesting phenomenon that came out of seeing the doll museum. Driving around the town and in outlying farming areas afterwards and seeing the old ladies bent over in the fields or the old gentlemen walking along the back streets, I started to get a sense of where Mayumi-san got the inspiration for her dolls!
Mayumi Takahashi Doll Museum
2941-1 Iiyama Oaza, Iiyama City
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (Apr-Nov); 10:00-16:00 (Dec-Mar)
600 yen for adults, 400 yen for middle and elementary school students