Yokohama Romankan

Though I found out about Romankan some way or another around 2 years ago, the idea of making a reservation to visit seemed out of the question.  Being a journalist at the time, I had come to loathe the “special” treatment given to “foreign guests” -  particularly if they were expecting me.  So I waited and waited, and waited a bit more, but knew that one day I would have to visit.

A few months before the discovery, I had attended the annual World Dolls Festival in Tokyo.  It was a rather drab and disappointing, over priced antique oriented affair.  That is, all except for Sachie Okano.  Her dolls were very striking, anthropomorphic albino-like rabbits with harsh white skin and red eyes, contrasted with soft and sweet child-like clothing.  At the time, I barely had enough for train fare, so I wasn’t about to go rack up false hope with the artist.  Even though most all patrons seemed to be ignoring her, she noticed my attention, and we exchanged a meaningful sidelong glare.  Not only her dolls, but her personality made a lasting impression.

However, her name was misspelled on the flyer.  The name on the list of booths and booth map didn’t match – misspellings and incomplete names.  It doesn’t help that she has no website or web presence.  So, what was I to do?

Browsing through the long and disorganized galleries of photos on the Romankan site (they have since remodelled), deciding if the trip was worth it, I suddenly came across her dolls.  There was no mistaking her craftsmanship.  I seemed to be in luck, but still couldn’t afford one, or muster the courage to make a reservation.

It is now over a year later and Romankan had recently changed their policy – business hours are held only during special exhibits, no appointment necessary.  I took the chance to go visit Okano’s dolls last Friday, during a Naoko Nomura exhibit.  Click on the link for ambiance photos.

The museum is tucked away in what seems to be a duplex or apartment building.  A very friendly lolita dressed woman answered the door and invited me in.  The whole space was very very small, but somehow filled with magic.  Victorian style velvet furniture, paintings, and other artwork simply covered every room.  I’d say each “gallery” room could comfortably accommodate one person, at most 3; the front entrance and sitting area might be able to handle 4.  Nonetheless, it’s far more amazing than I could possibly describe, and quickly became my new favorite doll museum.

While perusing the tiny rooms I was offered a delicious raspberry beverage, which I sipped daintily, admiring all the stark white fabrics around me.  It was perhaps a mere thimble-full, but still made me nervous.  I wondered how they could deal it out with such calm.

As I was about to leave, they inquired if I had come to see any particular dolls and then proceeded to get them from a back storage area for me to play with.  In total, there were 4 – 3 rabbit girls and a more human like girl.

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I couldn’t decide which one should come home with me, but they still allowed me to photograph them – almost unheard of anywhere else!  I purchased Nomura’s nostalgic-style picture book and promised to be back.  The staff did not introduce themselves, but made lots of pleasant conversation.  I really look forward to seeing them again.

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As it would happen, on the walk there I noticed a very striking patisserie as well.  It seemed far too fancy to be tucked away in a small suburban area, so I purchased some Lemon Tarts on the way home.  Going in only confirmed my suspicions – it was like walking into a different dimension.  The tarts were like miniature lemon meringue pies, the perfect balance of tart custard and marshmallow-like sweet meringue, lightly dusted with almonds.  An excellent souvenir for Sir Maru.

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