Director's Note 003
Something is Returning April 24, 2002

Since the first time I visited the Obihiro Horserace track, I have been attracted to its strange sense of absence. During the Ban-ei horseraces, the immense building in the stand is used as a ticket booth. In the off-season, the ticket booth is where tickets are sold for other horseraces in Hokkaido. Live broadcasting of those horseraces is also transmitted there. The sound is so real that I can't help but look at the track. But, all these horseraces, with the horses' running and people's cheering voices, are piped in from elsewhere in Hokkaido. On the Obihiro racetrack, there is no horse, only the quiet, relaxed landscape looms before me.

Present yet absent. Absent yet present... Tadashi Kawamata reacted to this sense of absence and emptiness from the beginning. He grinned like a little boy and said "it's not a bad idea to have a horse called 'Demeter.'" "This horse belongs to Demeter and runs in different races in Hokkaido. But it is absent in the Obihiro Racetrack during the exhibition. Everyone cheers for the horse that is absent here. It exists but is not here. It is not here but somewhere else..."

On November 21, 2001, right before catching the last flight back to Tokyo, I made time to stop at the horserace track. I had heard that it was right before the race and that the horses and families of stablemen had arrived at the racetrack.

I thought I knew what it would be like. But encountering the sight there, I couldn't believe my eyes and my heart was beating fast. Yes, I saw a "town" created in the stable area. There were streetlights. A prefab usually closed with a shatter, use unknown, was now a restaurant welcoming customers. The next prefab was turned into a convenience store.

In each stable, there was a nameplate with individual names. I felt the presence of the horses. Dogs were barking. There was a woman in a thick, pink bathrobe with a towel covering her hair crossing a street, having coming out of a bathhouse. There were many huge trailers. In their bright headlights, people's silhouettes were moving in and out.

In other words, the stable area was revived. It was just like magic. The empty ghost town was given life and was now fully alive with energy.

The difference between race period and off-season is so striking that the track seems especially empty when unoccupied. The town exists yet not all the time. This busy-ness and activity right in front of me seemed like imagination. I felt like I was lost in a parallel world.

I spoke about this strange phenomena of a town revived overnight. Someone said it probably happens to pilgrimage towns. It probably does.
I can call this phenomena "revival," but it is not exactly so. It is more like "return." "Something" returns here. "Descent" may be too much, but something returns here once a year, just like a season comes and goes.

There is this consistent sense of "absence"--as a potential of returning-- in the Obihiro racehorse track that gives great charm to this place. Thus, the spirit of absence anoints this land with a kind of holiness.

(Written by Serizawa Takashi)