Takashi Murakami's smiley balloons cheer Kumamoto
The Asahi Shimbun by TAZUKO GOTO/ Staff Writer December 9, 2016
TAKAMORI, Kumamoto Prefecture--Artist Takashi Murakami's luminous balloons depicting smiling flowers are brightening up a 2,055-meter tunnel in the Takamori Yusui Tunnel Park here.
The installation "Flowers" is meant as a message of encouragement and to wish a speedy recovery to a prefecture ravaged by the series of earthquakes in April.
“I wanted to do what I can in Kumamoto," said Murakami, 54.
Takamori Mayor Daisei Kusamura said he hopes that Murakami's balloon art, which can be seen through Dec. 25, will play a leading role in efforts to resume the quake-damaged Minami-Aso Railway.
The 17.7-kilometer railway runs between the town of Takamori and the village of Minami-Aso, one of the hardest-hit municipalities. While a 7.1-km section from Takamori reopened in July, the rest of the line remains suspended.
Murakami became involved in the concerted effort to support and hearten the region after seeing messages posted on the Internet by Koji Muraoka, 46, the president of pancake maker Ippei, who has been a strong supporter of Takamori.
“I wanted as many people as possible to know that they can visit the Minami-Aso area by spreading the enthusiasm for restoring the Minami-Aso Railway,” Muraoka said.