A Visit to Japan’s Wasp Nest Art Museum Pricks Us with Respect for Industrious Insects【Photos】
Gigantic Wasp Mt. Fuji is just one of the amazing exhibits on display at Hachi Tengoku.
In Japan, it is not uncommon to find art museums and galleries in rural areas, especially in the scenic mountainous regions that attract weekend travelers. And so it was on his recent trip to Nagano Prefecture our Japanese-speaking journalist Haruka Takagi came across a unique art collection in Hachi Tengoku…whose name translates to “Wasp Paradise.”
▼ Hachi Tengoku (蜂天国)
Nor is it a place that simply chooses a wild-sounding name to attract attention and visitors. The art on display at Hachi Tengoku, located in the city of Tomi, is indeed created by wasps. So what kind of art do they make?
Absolutely gigantic wasp nests!
Art projects are actually a bit cross-species collaboration. It turns out that wasps have an instinctive desire to smooth the outer surfaces of the nests they build. Using this knowledge, the human staff at Hachi Tengoku figured out that if you place two nests next to each other, industrious insects will begin to close the gap between them, combining them into one smooth mass. So if you collect a whole bunch of nests and group them together…
…eventually you may end up with something like this.
You may notice that some of these nests sit on wooden carvings of Chinese zodiac animals. 2022 is the year of the tiger, and this year’s giant nest, currently made from around 20 nests combined, is set to go on display later this month.
▼ Smaller, but still huge, nests are used in media rooms like these.
There really doesn’t seem to be a limit to the size of a nest you can create using the Hachi Tengoku technique.. For instance, here is a reconstruction of the Shinkansen, made of combined nests.
Hachi Tengoku has so many artworks that they can’t all fit on the first floor of the building, so Haruka climbed the stairs…
…then continued to look up to contemplate the majesty of Wasp Mount Fuji, Which one is 3,776 meters (12,388 feet) high!
Wasp Mt. Fuji is made of 160 nestsand required the work of a few 160,000 wasps. This sense of teamwork and dedication is why, along with the artwork, you will see signs with messages as moving as “Wasps deserve our respect!!” (蜂は尊敬に値する!!) displayed around the establishment.
And it’s hard not to be impressed, when you see things like the Space Shuttle Wasp…
…and this tower for which Hachi Tengoku submitted an application to Guinness World Records to be certified as the tallest in the world.
Then there are the smaller but still nifty pieces like the daruma wasp…
…wasp waving at cats…
There’s even a gift shop, although that kind of blurs language boundaries. In Japan, wasps are called suzumebachi and the bees Mitsubishibut “hash” is often presented as a catch-all for one or the other. While the art on display at Hachi Tengoku is made by suzumebachihis Mitsubishi who keep the gift shop filled with various types of honey, such as the sakura honey that Haruka picked up.
But hey, Hachi Tengoku is a place to celebrate all kinds of hashand really, after being so enthralled by the nests they build, Haruka would have felt a little weird eating wasp pellets again.
Hachi Tengoku / 蜂天国
Address: Nagano-ken, Tomi-shi, Shikazawa 435-1
Open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission 300 yen (adults), 100 yen (middle/high school students) (school-age children and younger free)
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