It looks like a science fiction monster of the week, but it’s actually a salute the millennia-old past.

As a country that primarily gets around by train, Japan has a lot of stations, and some of them have some pretty cool stuff inside. There’s one in Nagano that grows wine grapes on its platform, and another in Tokyo that installed special poop-blocking plates so a family of birds that made its nest inside the building wouldn’t have to be relocated.

But our Japanese-language reporter Saya Togashi recently heard about a station in that has something special on the outside, so she headed to the town of Tsugaru in Aomori Prefecture to see for herself.

The sun was already down by the time she got there, but the local rail stop, Kizukuri Station, is pretty easy to find in this rural community. It’s one of the few buildings in town that’s lit up at night, and like a beacon it drew Saya closer and closer…

…until it stopped her dead in her tracks.

Towering above her, and really most of the other structures in the area, was a giant…something. Saya’s first thought was that this was Dogouf, one of the colossal foes of tokusatsu hero Ultraman.

▼ Dogouf

▼ Kizukuri Station

As Saya’s mind was trying to process what she was looking at, the giant’s eyes began to glow.

“I…I must be seeing things, right?” Saya asked herself. Chalking it up to fatigue-related hallucination, she decided to go get some sleep and come back and see what the station really looks like in the light of day.


…even in the morning sun, the giant remains.

However, Saya was reassured when she saw other people walking in and out of the station on their way to work or school, all without the giant lifting its foot and crushing the puny humans underneath. As a matter of fact, she now noticed that it only has one leg.

So what’s going on here? Kizukuri Station is located near the Kamegaoka Ruins, where archaeologists found remnants of a settlement from Japan’s Jomon period, which stretched back all the way to 14,000 BC. Among the relics researchers unearthed were clay figures called shakoki-dogu.

▼ Shakoki-dogu

“Shakoki” literally means “shader” or “light blocker,” and the figures name references the goggle-like detailing around the eyes. Many shakoki-dogu are discovered with a limb or body part snapped off, and some researchers believe this was done purposely, as part of some sort of ritual or ceremony. Since the shakoki-dogu found at the Kamegaoka Ruins that served as inspiration for the design of Kizukuri Station was missing its left legs, the architects retained this aspect for the building.

▼ Its right foot, meanwhile, is surrounded by flower planters.

Construction on Kizukuri Station finished in 1992, and the giant shakoki-dogu statue stands 17.3 meters (56.8 feet) tall, making it far bigger than the clay figures found at the nearby archeological dig, and almost as large as the life-size Gundam statue in Tokyo.

▼ Even the park located next to Kizukuri Station has a historical theme, with its public toilet facility designed to resemble a Jomon-era dugout pit dwelling.

The statue has become a symbol of the town, and now that Saya knew more about it, it didn’t seem so intimidating. Once she found out it’s been given a cute nickname, Shako-chan, the colossus even started to seem cute.

▼ Looking good, Shako-chan!

Even the reason Shako-chan’s eyes light up at night is actually kind of sweet, as the illumination starts about three minutes before a train is scheduled to pull into the station, giving anyone mulling about outside that if they need to get on, they should start heading for the platform.

Kizukuri Station is primarily used by locals, as the town doesn’t get huge numbers of sightseers or business travelers. Because of that, the nonchalant way everyone walks by the gigantic shakoki-dogu, which looks on with a calm, peaceful expression, makes it feel like Shako-chan is telling them all “Have a good day! See you later!” in the morning and “Welcome back!” in the evening.

So it turns out that Kizukuri Station’s unique architecture isn’t anything to be afraid of after all, and helps give a sense of identity and togetherness to a community that shakoki-dogu were first part of thousands of years ago.

Shakoki-dogu photo: Wikipedia/Rc 13
All other images ©SoraNews24
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