By Tetsuo Ukai / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterWhen British mountaineer George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb mountains, he replied that it was because mountains are there.
On the other hand, Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), a world-renowned sculptor, said that because there was no mountain, he would make a mountain. He then made basic designs for Moerenuma Park.
Mt. Moere, with its peak 62 meters above sea level, is the landmark of the park. In 2006, two years after the completion of its construction, Mt. Moere appeared on the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan’s topographic map as the only mountain in Sapporo’s northeastern area.
I wished to climb it because I heard that the lower part of the mountain was made of nonburnable garbage and the upper part was made of soil dug up in the course of public works and other construction projects.
Together, the two materials used to create the mountain could have filled 270,000 trucks.
The shape of the mountain includes both straight and curved ones, and the slopes themselves, clothed in bright green grass, are beautiful. It is hard to believe that garbage is buried underneath.
At the top, nothing blocks the view of nearby areas — but nothing blocks the wind, either, and it was so strong that I could barely manage to keep standing.
But I was able to look across not only the grounds of the park but also Sapporo’s city center and Mt. Eniwa.
The park area is blanketed with silvery white snow in winter. In the season, local residents say, children enjoy sledding in the park and also enjoy sliding down the “sculptured land” on their bottoms.
Noguchi first visited the site in March 1988, when it was still a marsh. The name of the U-shaped marsh comes from “Moere-betsu,” a term in Ainu language, which means leisurely river flow. When he visited the marsh, it stood out as a garbage disposal site.
The sculptor walked around in the marsh wearing high boots and said that the view of the sky looked very wide. He declared that the area needed form, and he would take on the job.
Soon after Noguchi finished the basic designs of the park, he passed away in December 1988.
Fulfilling the cherished desire of Noguchi, the park with a 3.7-kilometer outer circumference was completed. The whole of the park constitutes a set of sculptural artworks. Visitors can enjoy the scene changing around them with each step they take.
Features in the park include the Sea Fountain, which is a sculpture using water; Play Mountain, which is 30 meters tall and is made of rows of granite blocks giving it the look of an ancient ruin; and Tetra Mound, a 13-meter-high structure made of stainless pillars 2 meters in diameter tilting inward toward one another.
Those objects take the wide sky over the northern land and cut it into a variety of views. Visitors never tire of looking at them.
I approached one structure thinking that it was a beautiful art object, but noticed that it was a restroom. Everything here is art.
Glass Pyramid, made of more than 1,000 panes of glass, is nicknamed “Hidamari” (sunny spot). In keeping with the image from the nickname, sunlight was indeed showering the object as I looked at it. Snow is collected in winter to be used for air conditioning here in summer.
Kazumi Miyai, a curator of the park, said that 700,000 to 800,000 people visit the park annually. “In recent years, many foreign tourists have come because scenes here make for good Instagram photos,” she said.
Dandelions, whose seeds were brought by strong winds, bloom here in their season. The beauty of nature coexists with the park.
Noguchi was born in Los Angeles to Leonie Gilmour and Yonejiro Noguchi, who was recognized in the United States and Europe for his English poems. Noguchi spent most of his early life in Japan but was abandoned by his father and returned to the United States at age 13.
From then on, he was buffeted by the times. Being Japanese-American, he was once placed in an internment camp. As he was always a border-crosser, he created new artistic designs.
The park utilizes things which were once disposed of, and accepts flowers that arrive by crossing geographical borders. The park embodies the spirit of Noguchi, the 30th anniversary of whose death comes later this year.
Sapporo’s many sculptures
There are a large number of sculptures in Sapporo. One of the most famous sculptures is of Dr. William Clark, who is known for his exhortation, “Boys, be ambitious!”
In Odori Park, where a TV tower stands, there are two famous sculptures. One is Izumi no Zo (Fountain) by Shin Hongo, which comprises statues of three female dancers stretching their arms toward the sky. The other is Kaitaku no Haha no Zo (Mother of settlement) by Churyo Sato.
The statue Black Slide Mantra, designed by Noguchi, is popular among children, who use it as a slide.
By plane, it is a 1½-hour flight from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport. From the airport to Sapporo Station, it is a 37-minute ride on a JR train. From Sapporo subway station to Kanjo Dori Higashi Station it is a six-minute ride. Finally, from that station, it is about a 25-minute ride by bus, departing from the East 69 or 79 bus stop, to reach the east entrance of Moerenuma Park.
For details, call (011) 790-1231 in Japanese.
The park opens from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free.
To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&dSpeech