Painting and Story by Lehan Winifred Ramsay
When I lived in Hakodate I used to walk with my dog from my house on Mount Hakodate along a road to get to the ropeway, and on the other side of that was a vacant block of land with a stone wall and a bench. You could sit on that bench and look down the wide cobbled road at the temple and at the bottom of the hill the passing streetcar and beyond it the harbour and on the other side of the harbour the mountains.
You could get a beer from the ropeway kiosk and the bench became a bar with the best view in town. One day I took Takeshi, who was doing some part-time work for me, along with me and we sat on the bench while my dog grazed in the vacant lot and talked about the business we could make there. I wanted to make a pastizzi shop with a window for hot coffee and Takeshi thought it should have an inn as well, just four rooms for rent at the back, I think he’d read about an inn like that in a book once. But definitely keep the low stone wall and the bench.
Of course the vacant lot became occupied, it started to get trucks from the local souvenir seafood shops parking there. All those shops were down in the tourist sections and although they looked like different businesses they were mostly just the one and for some reason the trucks started to park up there on top of the hill. Then they built a two or three story square building there, the wall went, the bench went and this building went up.
But it seemed they felt they needed more visual presence than their cheaply built building and they put two things in front of it. An old Datsun car and a large statue of liberty.
It was smack in the middle of the old part of town with the churches and the old buildings and the locals really didn’t like the statue of liberty up there on the hill and they complained about it a lot. So much so that the company had to do something about it but instead of taking it down they hoisted up the statue of liberty and laid her down on her side on the roof and there she stayed for some time staring down at the people passing on the street.
People still complained. Then they decided to take her off the roof and hoisted her down to the ground and stood her up again. This time they put a big banner over her saying “Fighting Spirit Fukushima” and people were annoyed again. That has nothing to do with Fukushima, they said, you are just exploiting people’s troubles.
Then the shop went broke and they moved everything out and closed it down. They took away the little Datsun car but they left the big big statue of liberty standing there with her banner saying “Fighting Spirit Fukushima”. The people complained, and the City Hall complained. But the company said they were broke and so they did not have the money to take her away.
I took a photograph for you but it did not come out, it is a shame.
Here is a painting of my dog instead.