Statues of Yokohama 02: Mother and Child of the Sun

Statues of Yokohama 02: Mother and Child of the Sun

“Meet me in Bashamichi,” my friend texted me. He wanted to introduce me to a restaurant he recently discovered.
“Where in Bashamichi?” I texted back.
“In front of the sculpture.”
“The one in front of the coffee shop.”

A telling commentary of modern life when we refer to coffee shops as pinpoints on maps to guide people to meeting places. But then again how many people follow directions on smartphone maps to bronze sculptures?
The sculpture of a mother with a child resting on her lap stood out in plain sight on the sidewalk, but I hardly gave it a second glance. I stood with my back to it, checking my watch, and looking up and down the sidewalk with growing impatience.
“Be a few minutes late,” my friend texted me.
I could better spend those few minutes browsing through the rows of CDs and Vinyl recordings in Bashamichi’s Disk Union. The shop was on the second floor above the coffee shop.
I climbed up the outside steps and on the first landing, I paused. For the first time, I took a long look at the sculpture. At first blush, nothing particularly outstanding about it stood out. The surrounding buildings, cars, and passersby competed for attention. But when I focused solely on the three-dimensional figures, the mother and child seemed to come alive.

Curiosity got the best of me. I scooted back downstairs and squatted close to the title of the sculpture. 太陽の母子 (Mother and Child of the Sun). Underneath was the name of the sculptor. 本郷新 (Shin Hongo 1905-1980). The plaque next to the title provided a thumbnail sketch of the reason for placing the sculpture in this particular location. In 1869, Fusazo Machida was the first Japanese to manufacture and sell ice cream in Japan. The Kanagawa Prefectural Branch of the Japan Ice Cream Association had commissioned the sculpture in honor of Fusazo Machida. In 1976 the mother and child were unveiled near the spot where Machida opened his ice cream shop. (The exact spot remains to this day a matter of discussion.)

What thoughts circulated inside Hongo-san’s mind when he received the commission? A memorial commemorating the opening of an ice cream shop?  A daunting challenge for any artist to come up with a concept. He must have consulted with the people from the Japan Ice Cream Association and from officials from the Bashamichi Neighborhood Association. Together, they must have agreed the sculpture must have lasting artistic qualities. Certainly nothing as artless as a bronze likeness of a child licking ice cream from a cone.

My imagination inspired the following scene in which Hongo-san is pitching his concept to the backers of the project.

“Fusazo Machida introduced to the Japanese something creamy and definitely different. Something they could enjoy alone and with the whole family. Like a mother bringing in new life, Machida-san added something lovable and enjoyable to the lives of ordinary people.”

It made sense to me that Hongo-san would symbolize the introduction of something new and different by referencing a mother bringing a child into the world.  He probably realized that people walking past the sculpture in years to come would not associate it with the introduction of ice cream into Japan. More likely they would ponder the mystery of life when viewing the mother’s loving care of her child.

When I viewed the Mother and Child from different perspectives, I actually perceived life pulsating under the bronze epidermis.

The mother’s expression reveals pride mixed with the wonderment of the life she holds on her lap. Perhaps, a trace of apprehension as well as she thinks about the world her son will grow up in.

However, the child harbors no reservations. He welcomes life with open arms.  Everything is new and exciting and he is impatient to slip off his mother’s lap and explore on his own.

You can almost imagine them getting ready to stand up and walk.
Hmm, I wonder if she would like to borrow my sweater.
Soon the child will grow taller and too heavy for his mother to hold him.

This photo represents what the sculpture might look like on display in a museum.

Now when my friend texts me to meet him in front of the sculpture, I will text back, “Ah, you mean the Mother and Child of the Sun. That’s the one sculpted by Shin Hongo, right?”

“Yeah, whatever.”


Additional Information

Take a look at the following website for information about the Hongo Shin Memorial Museum

The following website gives a thumbnail sketch of Bashamichi


The first person to make and sell ice cream in Japan was an American Richard Risley Carlisle (1814-1874), a professional acrobat. He arrived in Yokohama in 1864 with his troupe to put on a series of performances. He proved to be an enterprising individual who branched out into other activities, among them was his dairy farm. He imported dairy cows from California and sold his products to the foreign community. In 1865, he opened Japan’s first ice cream parlor located in Yokohama’s foreign settlement. Obviously, he didn’t picture himself growing old selling ice cream. He formed a troupe of Japanese professional acrobats and returned to the United States. I was unable to find out what happened to his ice cream parlor.

The first Japanese to make and sell ice cream was Fusazo Machida. At age16, Machida signed on as one of the 96 crew members on the Kanrin Maru, Japan’s first sail and screw-driven warship. In 1860, the warship accompanied the USS Powhatan carrying Japan’s first diplomatic mission to the United States to discuss trade issues. While the Kanrin Maru stopped over in San Francisco, Machida and his shipmates were allowed to go ashore to explore life in a foreign country. On one of these outings, the teenager got his first taste of American-made ice cream. The experience made a lasting impression on his taste buds, and he was positive the folks back home would enjoy eating it, too. Over the years, he experimented with different recipes and manufacturing methods until he was satisfied. In July 1869, he opened his ice cream shop in Bashamichi.

Check out Nike and Nicole

Statues of Yokohama 01: Bashamichi Conversation








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