Enoshima Station in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, has become a popular tourist attraction, thanks to its unique feature of eight metal sparrows on display. These sparrows are dressed up in various outfits throughout the year, from different seasons to festive holidays like Christmas or the World Cup. And one of the most heartwarming outfits that the sparrows wear are tiny sweaters, which a kind-hearted woman knitted for them for nearly 20 years, until her death, making Sparrows wearing sweaters a symbol of compassion.
Many travelers go here only to see what the lovely sparrows are wearing today. For a long time, the identity of the person who designed these outfits was a big question mark.
Twenty years of love with sparrows
Eight bronze sparrows sat on the railing in front of Enoshima Station, designed by the Japanese company Sunpole. The piece was named “Picolino,” which is derived from the term “piccola,” which means “little things” in Italian. The original function of this item was to deter bad children from climbing on the railing.
Accordingly, Sunpole has designed on each railing four sparrows and always has a different bird at a distance from the other three. This is to encourage children to construct their own stories.
Starting in the winter of 1999, eight sparrows began to flaunt their fashion once a month, making tourists inquisitive. The person behind this initiative is Mrs. Ishikawa Katsuko, a saleswoman who works close to the station.
Every day, while working in the shop, Ishikawa could witness eight sparrows silently sitting on the railing, whether it was sunny or raining. When winter came, worrying that the uncles could feel cold, she came up with the idea to sew something for them. And the sweaters were born here.
At the conclusion of each month, Mrs. Ishikawa replaces the sparrow statue’s attire once a month. In particular, the summer in Enoshima is particularly hot and rainy. She is anxious that the sweaters would fade and distort, so she replaces them twice a month.
She once disclosed, “Because we have to use double-sided glue to adhere the garments and repair them, it takes a lot of time to change the sparrow’s clothes.” “So in the early morning when there are no people, before the first train of the day arrives at the station, I and two other buddies will change their attire.” Perhaps because of it, for a long time, no one knew the name of the person who knitted and dressed the sparrow statue.
As well as altering their clothing every month, Ishikawa even makes sweaters for the eight sparrows according to holidays and the seasons of the year.
Every September, which is also the anniversary of the establishment of Enoshima station, the birds are clothed in green and yellow shirts, the traditional color of trains at the station. During the cherry blossom season, they are dressed in stunning pastel pink sweaters to welcome guests.
Or during Christmas, they are “mother” Ishikawa crocheting red and blue sweaters with gorgeous yellow bells attached. As a football lover, during the World Cup, Ms. Ishikawa also alters the attire of the sparrows to match the colors of the national flags of other countries.
During the 17 years of making sweaters for the sparrow, there were also periods when Mrs. Ishikawa had to take a break. The first time was in 2006, when she retired. At that moment, she also decided to cease knitting. However, a year later, a visitor to Enoshima Station sent her a picture frame depicting the birds’ gorgeous sweater moments. This provided Ishikawa additional drive to continue her earlier efforts.
On April 2, 2010, on the 100th anniversary of Enoshima Station, Mr. Fukaya, Director of Enoshima Station, personally delivered a thank-you letter to Ms. Ishikawa with the warm sweaters she provided her for sparrows.
After nearly 10 years, she has crocheted thousands of sweaters, but she normally doesn’t save these charming small ones unless someone asks. A graduate of the housewifery department, Ms. Ishikawa is highly adept at knitting and takes only around 30 minutes to finish a woolen sparrow outfit.
However, as we get older, knitting becomes more and more difficult. Thinking the eight birds would freeze in the middle of winter, she spent as much time as possible crocheting new supplies for them.
When illness struck, she was hospitalized and was forced to cease knitting. At that moment, a close friend of hers, Mrs. Sanshiko Koike, promised to continue knitting to fulfill Ishikawa’s wish and assist the birds always have fresh outfits to wear. Their two children are classmates, and both families are fairly close, often supporting each other with raising their daughters and traveling together.
In 2016, after many years of sending love to the sweaters for the sparrow monument, Mrs. Ishikawa passed away amid the sadness of many people.
Warmth is spreading over Japan
Not only Ms. Koike, but many other people also took the initiative to replace the sparrow statues at the subway station near their house. For example, four sparrows in Yokohama City were given new shirts to replace their old collars for the Yokohama F. Marinos football team. In the summer, they are clad in bathrobes to watch the fireworks. Likewise the birds in front of Anazawaten Shrine in Inagi, Tokyo, are also dressed into Christmas outfits.
Not stopping there, many individuals couldn’t resist the cuteness of the sparrow statue, so they bought it to exhibit at home and didn’t forget to continue to change their costumes. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Picolino in a certain office was even wearing a mask. Witnessing the scenario where the birds are donning cozy sweaters, many people can’t help but exclaim, “How lovely is this world?”
When changing the birds’ attire, Ms. Koike also received several encouragements or received a gift of scissors from a stranger who noticed her having trouble cutting double-sided tape. For now, however, Ms. Koike is worrying about who will inherit the duty of crocheting sweaters for the sparrows.