Japan, known for its fusion of tradition and eccentric subcultures, has another feather in its cap with the Yashio Hihokan, located in the quiet suburbs of Yashio, Saitama prefecture. Translating to the Yashio Adult Museum in English, this two-storey residence stands as a testament to one man’s passion, displaying a vast collection of “love dolls”, intertwined with an array of erotica, unsettling exhibits, and rare collectibles.
Yoshitaka Hyodo, the 49-year-old owner, has transformed his domicile into a sprawling mosaic of his personal interests. “Ever since I was young, the concept of cyborgs and artificial entities has captivated me,” Hyodo mentions in his blog. He expresses how, over time, these interests merged, shaping his home into the eclectic showcase it is today.
His journey started more than two decades ago with a serendipitous discovery of a discarded mannequin. This innocuous find ignited a fervor within him, leading to a collection of around 50 diverse dolls, including mannequins, sex dolls, and various anatomical replicas.
“While I bought half of the dolls in my collection, many came from acquaintances who could no longer keep them due to life changes,” says Hyodo. A significant portion of his collection is sourced from Orient Industry, a renowned Tokyo-based company celebrated for crafting some of the industry’s most realistic adult toys since 1977. Acquiring such a creation could set one back by a substantial 700,000 yen (approx. US$4,780).
Not just a collector, Hyodo originally ventured into the realm of photography, specializing in capturing evocative images of these dolls against the backdrop of haikyo (ruins). His works have been lauded globally, with exhibitions in cities like Paris and Tokyo. In September 2022, a documentary detailing his unique life was screened across Japan, further cementing his prominence.
In 2021, aiming to counter misconceptions and false narratives disseminated by a popular website and a major broadcasting entity, he founded the Dai Nippon Rabu Dooru To (The Great Japan Love Doll Party). Hyodo’s distrust of certain media sectors led to sympathy for Hana Kimura, a reality TV star who tragically took her life after online harassment. Reflecting on his past, Hyodo felt a deeper connection and responsibility.
Life hasn’t been straightforward for Hyodo. A brush with the notorious yakuza at a tender age of 14 and subsequent health challenges, including multiple heart issues and a pituitary tumor diagnosis, paint a tumultuous journey. Yet, after opening his home to the public in 2015, life’s trajectory shifted positively. He eagerly anticipates 300 visitors this year.
“The global attention has allowed me to forge connections worldwide. I’ve always lived through peaks and troughs, but now they seem magnified,” Hyodo reflects. With global travel restrictions easing, international enthusiasts have started flocking to the Yashio Hihokan, further diversifying his visitor demographic.
One such visitor, Joe McReynolds, an urban studies scholar, attended the museum during a Blade Runner Day celebration, a film that greatly influenced Hyodo’s museum aesthetics. McReynolds lauds the space as a vivid embodiment of Hyodo’s unique vision, a testament to Tokyo’s spirit, where an individual’s singular dream seamlessly blends with the city’s tapestry.
Despite its unusual theme, the Yashio Hihokan serves as a poignant reminder of the city’s ability to embrace and celebrate individualism. It stands as a beacon, urging visitors to explore and appreciate the nuances of Japan’s multifaceted subcultures.