Heading through the countryside toward the beaches and trendy cafés of the Itoshima Peninsula from Fukuoka City on Route 54, you could easily pass by Orange Village without noticing it. But hidden behind greenery on the side of the curvy road, and with only a single parking space, this is a treasure for those who appreciate heartfelt crafts for children. In short: local, natural, and handmade.
Even for those who don’t have young ones of their own, this place is worth a visit. Enter through the colorful gate and up the steps into the leafy yard. You’ll come upon the very rare sight in Japan of a yard swing looking over a front porch. Spend a few minutes outside trying out the huge pinball games, moving wooden animals, and the outdoor bowling alley with full-sized pins before heading in to see the shop itself.
Craftwork takes place on location, so the pleasant scent of white ash is in the air. It’s a small store, just the right size to feel homey and comfortable but have enough on offer to find something you’ll like. Inside, there are marble race games, popguns and rubber-band guns, pull toys, and an array of puzzles. I personally find the puzzles most appealing. There are hideaway puzzles as well as sets of interlocking cute and colorful sea creatures, farm animals, and more. Choose from uncolored, natural wood blocks, too. The puzzles range from being good gifts for toddlers to challenging brain games for adults.
Owner and artist Shinichi Matsuda was born in Hakata in 1953 and says he wanted to make toys ever since he was a child. After reaching the age of 30, he quit his company job and has been self-employed and making wooden toys ever since. His original goods are very reasonably priced, local, wooden, and a fresh alternative to imported, mass-produced plastic sensations. You can’t order them on the Internet or get them anywhere but from the artist himself.
If you’re interest goes beyond playing with and buying toys, you can even take a woodworking class from the master craftsman. Both kids and adults can try their hand at making a toy, and there’s even a yearlong course for those looking to become professionals.
おれんじ村—orenji mura—Orange Village