At first glance you might think Inami Station (photo below), on the Kisei Line in the town of Inami, Wakayama Prefecture, isn’t much to look at. A non-descript rectangle with a utilitarian tile roof, most people would call it plain, and if one were prone to harsher vocabulary, they might even use the word ugly.
But as the classic story of "The Ugly Duckling" teaches us, what really counts is not how something looks on the outside, but what’s inside…and in the case of Inami Station, what’s inside is a bunch of adorable frogs.
Frogs are sort of the symbol of Inami, and are considered auspicious creatures in traditional Japan folklore. The Japanese word for frog is kaeru, which is also a homonym for the word meaning “come home” or “return.” Because of that, frogs are thought of as a sign that travelers will return home safe and sound, which makes them especially appropriate for a train station waiting room.
The frog figurines were designed by artist Taiki Matsushita and installed as part of a local art project in 2018. However, they haven’t attracted nationwide attention because of the station’s rural location (Inami is about three hours south of Osaka), and these recently shared photos from Japanese Twitter user @tangyorai are the first time many people have seen them, with reactions including:
“They look like a group of playful kids having fun while waiting for their train.”
“The sleepy-looking one on the left is so cute!”
“I almost thought this was CG.”
“It’s like something out of Alice and Wonderland.”
“I want to dress them up with swords and capes like Frog from Chrono Trigger.”
In addition to looking cute, the Inami frogs are also serving an important secondary purpose these days, as by taking up seats and bench spots, they’re helping to keep people from sitting too close to each other, and so promoting social distancing as the pandemic continues.
This isn’t the only frog-infrastructure hospitality Inami extends to visitors, either, as the town boasts a frog bridge too.
And should you be craving even more cute animals during your train trips in Wakayama, don’t forget that the prefecture also has a rail stop where the stationmaster is an actual cat.
Sources: Twitter/@tangyorai via IT Media, Ki no Kuni Train Art
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