We bought a charcoal painting of Hirosaki Castle on the street of Tokyo on our last day, using our last yen. It was by a one-eyed artist who looked like Dumbledore.
Located on the top of Kyushu island in Hirosaki city, Aomari, Hirosaki Castle is one of the last few standing castle tower in Japan. It's world famous spot for cherry blossom viewing. I have never Aomori but it's on my bucket list ever since I bought the Hirosaki Castle charcoal painting.
Ueno Street Art
Japanese Dumbledore parked himself and his impromptu shop under the stairs of Ueno Park.
I saw him on our first day there, but was too immersed by my first hanami at the park to approach him. On our second last day I saw him again, this time I need to be at Yanaka in the early morning, so I rushed pass him. Not that he ever noticed me, or any other passerby, foreigner or local. He was busy focusing on his arts, which looked aesthetically pleasing even on the cardboard display.
Finally, on our last day, dragging the luggage to the Ueno Keisei line entrance, we stopped. If the amount of the last yen bills we had was enough, we would get the painting. I approached the Japanese Dumbledore to ask and negotiate, but again, he was busy with his painting. Then only I noticed that he painted using charcoal, which was kinda cool!
The paintings were separated into three cardboards based on the season. The Spring ones were decorated with lots of sakura and temples, the Autumn ones painted in bolder colors and featured various lakes. Contrarily, Winter colors' were more subdued with the snow falling on most of them.
It's not easy to pick one.
The lady who stood beside us bought five. She was already thinking out loud about how to display them in the house. Our left over yen could only get us one. We chose one of the spring ones, to commemorate our first Sakura sighting, right above these stairs, a little more than a week before.
I showed him the painting we wanted, he showed me a paper instead. He pointed Aomori location on the map and then pointed back to the picture. It's the location of the painting, the Hirosaki Castle, I found out later. He signed the painting and, at my request, posed with it before handing it to us.
We parted with our last yen bills, arigato-ed him a couple of times and took a piece of Hirosaki Castle, gorgeously painted in charcoal ink back to Melbourne. It's now sitting on our dining table, right below the Kyoto train station painting by Lukas Stobie.
I would like to think the Japanese Dumbledore has been to all over Japan and he painted them purely from memory. And maybe Summer is his least favorite season. That's why there was no painting of it.
I wouldn't blame him, Summer in Japan can get pretty brutal. But that's another story for another time.
The painting inspires me to visit Aomori. Hopefully, the law of attraction will bring us there someday, soon.
Meanwhile, when you visit Tokyo, do say Konichiwa to the Japanese Dumbledore from me.
You can get down at Ueno train station, stroll around the scenic Ueno Park, grab a cuppa at the iconic Starbucks, before meeting him at the end of the park's staircase. And if you have 2,000 Yen to spare, get his painting so you can bring a beautiful piece of Japan and Japanese culture back home.