Restaurant Operator Turns Downtown Tokyo Into Popular Snow Globes


Restaurant operator turns downtown Tokyo into popular snow globesIt's always snowing in Hideyuki Date's vision of downtown Tokyo. Within his original snow globes, he has captured tiny scenes of the city, from a public bathhouse to the Tokyo Skytree.

Popular as souvenirs and Christmas items in the United States and Europe, and usually featuring holiday scenes, popular characters, and landmarks, snow globes are not commonly sold in Japan.

A snow globe typically encloses a miniaturized scene or model in a transparent sphere that is filled with water, made sticky with glycerin or other substances, and white plastic particles. When the globe is turned upside down and placed back in its position, the "snow" falls on the buildings and figures.

Date, 49, who operates an "okonomiyaki" Japanese pancake restaurant in Tokyo's Arakawa Ward, said he saw snow globes for the first time about 20 years ago.

Fascinated by their poetic beauty, he started buying and collecting snow globes. His collection now numbers 2,000 or so.

About four years ago, he also began making his own globes using an overseas manufacturer to produce them based on his own designs.

His first snow globe featured a model of a famous public bathhouse in Tokyo's Ota Ward.

"I wanted to express the spirit of true-born Tokyoites," Date said.

He went on to make snow globes showcasing models of the "Obake Entotsu" (ghost chimneys) of a now-defunct thermal power plant in Tokyo's Adachi Ward, sumo wrestlers, the Tokyo Tower and other themes.

Initially, he was selling the globes on a small scale over the Internet, with most of the works put on display at his home. But in August 2012, a staff member of the Museum Shop of the National Art Center, Tokyo in Minato Ward made an offer to Date, opening doors to a full-scale sales operation.

Shops operating at Haneda Airpot and JR Ueno Station followed suit to obtain permission to carry his products.

Date has created 11 types of original snow globes, which range in price from 600 yen to 2,000 yen ($6 to $20).

"I want to keep making snow globes suggestive of Edo (old Tokyo)," Date said.

His snow globes are also available over the Internet at (http://www.coolrash.com/shop/index.html).

AJW