If you were to make a list of the things you're least likely to stumble upon hidden amid plaza shrubbery anywhere in Japan, near the top of that list would surely be 14 life-size sculptures commemorating revered ancestors among the Ibibio and Annang peoples of southeast Nigeria.

And yet, if you venture about 30 minutes west of Shinjuku on the Chuo Line and take a brief walk from Tachikawa Station, you'll find them.

When I first encountered these statues, I was simply minding my business on the way to Tachikawa Station. I was struck dumb, paralyzed damn near mid-step. The contrast with what I had come to expect on the streetscape of a country consisting predominantly of people to whom statues of Nigerian ancestors lurking in bushes might result in heart attacks and brain hemorrhages was not lost on me, either. I might’ve gone into cardiac arrest myself if I hadn’t remembered I resided in one of the safest countries on the planet, so there had to be a reasonable explanation for this.