In the Valparaíso Region of Chile, a group of statues equal in shape and size rise from a site known as Ahu Akivi and stare out into the Pacific Ocean. These mysterious Maoi are just some of thousands discovered on Easter Island, built by the Rapa Nui to honor important people who had passed on. More than 14,000 km (± 8800 mi) away, on the southern coast of Miyazaki, Japan, the world’s only sanctioned replicas of these statues can be found staring back.
Situated on a gorgeous hill that overlooks the Nichinan Coast, the Miyazaki statues form part of a seaside park called Sun Messe. There are seven figures in all, each standing 5.5 m (18 ft) high and weighing about 20 tons. Each statue represents a blessing (health, love, leisure, marriage, money, business, and academics) and the spirit of one of the seven Easter Island explorers.
Why on earth would a city like Nichinan reproduce monoliths from a Chilean island, you ask? Well, because Japan.
I’ve always dreamed of visiting the Netherlands, partly due to my Dutch ancestry but mostly because of my love of cheese and other edibles. So when Golden Week began approaching, an annual string of public holidays, and Austin and I were planning a road trip around western Kyushu, I figured why not make a stop in Japan’s very own Amsterdam.
Huis Ten Bosch (ハウステンボス) is a 17th-century style Dutch-themed amusement park located in Sasebo, Nagasaki facing Omura Bay. Named after one of the residences of the Dutch Royal Family, the “House in the Forest” recreates the atmosphere of a Dutch city with windmills, canals, and tulip gardens straight out of a Jacob van Ruisdael painting.
The park is the size of Monaco and pays homage to the city’s relations with Holland, which date back to Japan’s isolationist period. Despite the country’s sakoku policies at the time, Dutch traders were allowed to buy and sell wares on Hirado island, and later Dejima in Nagasaki Bay.
“There’s no way my butt is going to fit through there.” Mark and I were staring at the small hole in the fence and I wondered nervously if this was such a good idea after all. “Can you go over, maybe?” I wedged the toe of my knock-off Toms into a foothold and tried to hoist myself up but I could feel it creak beneath me.” Nope, it’s going to buckle.” And I wasn’t ready for a hug from a roll of barbed wire.
Just then, a car came hurtling round the corner and we both jumped back in fright. “Shit. Do you think they saw us? They totally saw us.” Mark didn’t answer. I looked up and down the road. “I’m kind of scared now. I mean, I just don’t know about this. Maybe we should keep walking, there could be another one down the…” a sudden rustling near the ground distracted me and I looked down to find him scrambling through the fence. “Well fuck, ok.”
Standing on the side of the road was one thing, but we couldn’t risk being seen idling on the other side of the fence. It was now or never. I took a deep breath, got on my hunches, dived headfirst through the hole, and promptly got stuck in the middle.