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.
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..."
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.
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.
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.
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
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
spoke about this strange phenomena of a town revived overnight.
Someone said it probably happens to pilgrimage towns. It probably
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.
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.
by Serizawa Takashi)