One of the most delightful aspects of Japan is that everything can be taken at different levels, like a three-dimensional MC Escher trick poster, or watching a movie twice and seeing new meanings on the second time.
Bungo Takada, a town hidden in Oita prefecture, is a bit like this. During the day it can be likened to a 1960s flower child fantasy, like a youth who has never grown up. Think of all the tin toys behind the display cases, or for me the rectangle transformer character pencil case I thought I would never see again since I buried it in the back of my school day memories. At night it can be likened to movie set for something like Spirited Away, with a decor that is neither present or past, one that takes you somewhere else, to another fantasy world.
Actually, it wasn’t always like this. When the local train station closed down in the mid- sixties, Bungo Takada slowly lost its vitality, not unlike some of the near abandoned towns on the inland sea. Paradoxically, it became its saving grace, its old townscapes preserved in time, with little money coming in to bulldoze its old buildings to make way for modern skyscrapers. Some of its mom and pop stores even kept their prices at 1960s levels, such as the Ootoraya 大寅屋食堂 restaurant, serving a set lunch set for 600 yen.
The centre of Bungo Takada is nicknamed Showa street. The Showa period in Japan lasted from 1926 to 1989, but its golden age was the Showa 30s, or the period from 1955 to 1965. It was a time of increasing prosperity for middle class Japan, culminating in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. This was a real coming of age for the baby boomers, one that transformed Japan in a way that other people may find hard to fathom, and it seems that as the years past, it takes on a golden glow, much like the times when the silver generation reflect on the dreamy sheen of adolescence.
Bungo Takada Showa no Machi can be reached by bus via Usa Station, which is served by the Nippo Honsen Line that connects Usa and Hakata. It can also be reached by taxi from Usa Station, which takes around 10 minutes.
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