SAPPORO – A Sapporo-based collector of Korean wooden bird sculptures plans to donate his collection to a South Korean college in hopes of helping thaw strained relations between Japan and South Korea.
Haruo Yahashi, 79, owner of a surveying firm, has collected 140 such artworks, many of which were made in the 19th century and were used as gifts, ever since he fell in love with an elegantly sculpted bird he saw at an antique store in Tokyo some 30 years ago.
He will donate them to Daegu Health College in the city of Daegu in southeastern South Korea.
Many of the sculptures are 20 cm to 40 cm long and weigh between 3 and 5 kg. Some are painted in bright colors such as red and yellow, while others are covered with gold foil, a sign that they were originally owned by wealthy Koreans.
Yahashi, who has served as the deputy director of the Japan-South Korea Friendship Association in Sapporo, has made numerous visits to South Korea to collect bird sculptures, making rounds of antique dealers over there. He has also tried to find out why some items are exchanged as gifts.
Yahashi has found, through his research of old documents, that grooms in South Korea sent wooden bird carvings to their brides at the time of their wedding to wish for a happy marriage. But that’s all he could find, Yahashi said.
“I will miss my collection,” he said.
“But I would like to know how the practice of sending these sculptures as gifts started.”
Daegu Health College, for its part, welcomed Yahashi’s offer and said it will create a new exhibition section, to be called the Yahashi Collection.
Yahashi, who plans to ship his collection of carvings by the end of the year, expressed hope that his action will promote exchanges between the two countries.
“Japan-South Korea relations are facing difficulties now, but I hope my donation will help promote exchanges on a grass-roots level,” Yahashi said.