Monday, July 11, 2005

Native American Factory Hopi

There's a really bizarre little shop on the outskirts of Asahi. It's
called "Native American Factory Hopi", and I've been meaning to
investigate it further for the past year, but I've never quite gotten
round to it. I always drive past it on my way to the supermarket, and
I always think, "That's a weird name for a shop - I wonder what it
sells? And why is it stuck out here in the middle of nowhere,
surrounded by rice fields?". Then I always think, "Maybe I should stop
and take a look?", but that's always followed by, "Nah, I really have
to get this shopping home before the ice cream melts," or, "What if I
go inside and it turns out to be a cult headquarters and they make me
commit ritual suicide?"

Well, last week, on a rainy afternoon, I finally stopped there and had
a look. To my relief, it wasn't a cult headquarters, or even a factory
churning out Native Americans, it was actually just a shop selling odd
little trinkets of Native American origin, such as carvings, jewellery
and "dreamcatchers". So many dreamcatchers in fact that the ceiling
was positively sagging under the weight of all of them - there's
absolutely no way that any dream, good or bad, is getting in or out of
that shop.

So all very interesting, but it begs the important question - why? Is
there really such a big market for Native American knick-knacks in a
rural Japanese town of 9,000 people? Has the town been cursed to
suffer nightmares by a local witch, and is subsequently in desperate
need for dreamcatchers? Is there a local fashion trend for native
beads and head-dresses? It just doesn't seem to make sense that a shop
this specialised can survive in such a small town. I'm sure there's a
market for this kind of stuff somewhere, but I'm pretty sure it ain't
here: surely "Hopi" is the kind of shop you're more likely to find
sandwiched between the Chinese medicine stall and the keycutters in
the depths of an American shopping mall...

I mean, it makes little sense that Asahi has a shop specialising in
Native American cultural artifacts when the total number of shops in
the whole town barely makes it into double figures. There aren't even
any bars, unless you count "Bar New Friend" which only sells whisky
and has an exclusive clientele of 70 year old karaoke singing farmers.

Still, I have a strange fondness for "Native American Factory Hopi".

It's odd. And I like that.

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