Text by Marta Knaś
Upon entering the Chinsekikan Museum, you will find yourself under an unsettling scrutiny of thousands of eyes. They do not move, watching you closely during the visit. Somehow, the stress is released when you realise the level of abstraction filling this unusual space, which will offer you the most emotional lesson of geology.
The Japanese Museum in Chichibu, 2-hour drive away from Tokyo, is a hall of curious rocks and ‘jinmenseki’ – naturally eroded stones with a human face. The small institution brings together an A-list of characters, from Elvis Presley through Boris Yeltsin, E.T. or Jesus, though many of the rocks are still anonymous.
Originally, the quirky collection belonged to Shozo Hayama, who devoted 50 years to assemble mother nature’s icredible creations. He allegedly suffered from pareidolia – a psychological phenomenon where mind perceives patterns in unexpected objects.
Apparently, Hayama’s wife, Yoshiko, shared her husband’s visual sensitivity and took over the collection after Shozo’s death in 2010. She is now guarding over 1,700 expressive rocks and occasionally invites visitors to name them.
So if you’re travelling to Japan anytime soon, make a stopover at Chinsekikan to marvel at the power of nature, human invention and if lucky, find your rock sibling in the remote country of cherry blossoms.