In the bustling heart of Nagoya, Japan, stands an unusual yet beloved figure: Nana-chan, a 20-foot-tall mannequin. Installed in front of the Meitetsu Department Store, she has been iconic since 1973. Over the decades, Nana-chan has become much more than a stationary figure; she’s a cultural landmark, a meeting point, and a symbol of community spirit. Let’s delve into the fascinating story of Nana-chan and explore why she has captured the hearts of both locals and tourists alike.
The Genesis of Nana-chan
Nana-chan was erected on April 28, 1973, to mark the first anniversary of Meitetsu Department Store’s now-closed Seven Building. The name “Nana-chan” is derived from the Japanese word for seven, “nana,” and was chosen based on public opinion. Toshiaki Kojima, one of the people involved in her creation, initially had a straightforward purpose for the statue: to offer a meeting place for people. The mannequin was designed based on a Swiss prototype and was built by a lumber company in Nagano Prefecture. Despite the tight timeframe of just one and a half months for completion, Nana-chan was successfully installed and quickly began to draw attention.
More Than Just a Mannequin
Although initially conceived as an advertising tool, Nana-chan’s role has evolved significantly. She is now a “member” of Meitetsu Department Store’s public relations team and serves multiple purposes, from promoting local events to serving as a backdrop for seasonal festivities. Her outfits change according to the season, from swimsuits and light summer kimonos known as yukatas to Santa Claus suits during Christmas.
The Cultural Impact
One of the most fascinating aspects of Nana-chan is her ability to mirror societal and cultural shifts. She has been dressed as popular characters like Wonder Woman and was even portrayed as being snatched up by Godzilla, effectively integrating herself into pop culture. According to Megumi Yasuda, head of Meitetsu’s public relations department, “Nana-chan never changes and is always there,” a sentiment that underscores her enduring presence in a rapidly evolving world.
A Tourist Attraction
Nana-chan’s fame has transcended local boundaries to become a bona fide tourist attraction. The Aichi Prefecture’s tourism department advises visitors to “first check out Nana-chan’s latest fashion statements” when visiting Nagoya. The statue serves as a point of interest and a cultural touchstone for those interested in understanding the city’s unique character.
The Artist’s Sentiment
Toshiaki Kojima, now 76, still visits Nana-chan whenever he’s in Nagoya and takes pictures of her for his mobile wallpaper. “I feel the urge to say that I made it,” he says, a testament to the deep emotional connection between the creators of public art and their work. His sense of accomplishment and pride in being part of something that has become a cultural symbol is a poignant aspect often overlooked in discussions about public landmarks.
A Note on Her Long, Long Legs
Nana-chan is not just a giant mannequin; she’s a testament to the power of public art and community engagement. Her changing outfits reflect the times, her steadfast presence offers a sense of continuity, and her story reveals the transformative power of community landmarks. Nana-chan remains an enduring symbol of Nagoya, proving that sometimes, unexpected things can become the most cherished landmarks.
1 Chome-2-5, Nakamura Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 450-0002, Japan (map)