Violin on the Moat at Goryōkaku Park
These waters are neither the River Thames in London, where Handel premiered Water Music, nor Kyoto’s Ōsawa Pond, where Heian aristocrats frolicked in boats.
This is the moat in Goryōkaku Park, a place where as a child I would dive into the water from the bridge above. Today, notes of a violin, a guitar’s strumming, and the dulcet serenade of a soprano echo across the water, all performed from boats. Even the plucking of the Tsugaru shamisen can be heard, reciting stories of Hakodate’s past and present.
In summer 2020, performance-starved artists staged outdoors shows in Hakodate for locals and visitors, displaying their talents under the open skies to avoid the “Three Cs” of COVID-19—closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings. The musical event, featuring artists performing on boats in the water, was wittily entitled “Moat’s Art.”
The pandemic has forced the cancellation of art events such as Hakodate’s World Music and Dance Festival and Open-Air Theater, previously held each summer. This inspired the idea of an outdoor festival to minimize COVID-19 transmission risk factors. The event, held in the heat of summer, garnered much support, and featured artists from near and far.
Artists, film crew, and equipment were in one boat, sometimes two, which were subsequently towed by another craft. Alternately blessed with tailwinds and contending with headwinds, the tow boats were rowed: requiring skill and strength. For all 20 events, a British man, Ian Frank, wielded the oars—an unsung hero among the program’s initiators.
Frank has lived in Hakodate for 20 years, and teaches Artificial Intelligence at a local university. Tall and well-built, he was in the rowing squad as a student. He executed his oar-work without a splash.
Getting there: 10 minutes on foot from Goryōkaku-Kōen-Mae station on the Hakodate City Tram
(Originally published in Japanese.)