Japanese couple hope to model their Depression glass museum on Wellington’s NDGA National Glass Museum

WICHITA — What once was a hobby while they lived in Kansas has turned into something of a business pursuit for Tak and Aya Oda in their home country of Japan.

The Odas were in Wellington Thursday to tour and learn about the NDGA National Glass Museum in order to start their own museum in conjunction with an American-style restaurant they have in Komoro City, Japan. NDGA is the National Depression Glass Association.

“Ah, we are lucky coming here,” Aya Oda says she and her husband commented while driving from Kansas City to Wellington.

They flew more than a dozen hours to get to America.

“It’s just nothing to see this view,” Aya Oda says of Washington Avenue in downtown Wellington where the museum is.

The Odas lived in the United States for about 25 years, a decade of which was in Kansas when Tak Oda was president of Sokkia, a company that makes measurement instruments and at the time was in Overland Park.

While living in Kansas and Nebraska, they began frequenting antique malls for Depression glass, the sometimes clear and often colorful glass that businesses gave away or sold cheaply to attract shoppers during the Depression.

After Tak Oda retired, they returned home, though someone was living in their Tokyo house, so they bought a large home in the historic Komoro City.

“The house is so big, so we decided to do something,” Tak Oda says of opening the restaurant in their home.

“Doing nothing is very tiresome,” Aya Oda says.

The Odas have more than 300 pieces of Depression glass and began using it in their increasingly popular restaurant, Sun Hills Oda.

“We never thought about opening (a) museum at first,” Aya Oda says.

As she cooks, Tak Oda serves the food and often spends his time talking about Depression glass with guests.

“I want all Japanese people (to) see these pretty, historical glasses,” Aya Oda says.

They started discussing the museum, which will be in separate rooms of their sprawling home, possibly divided by years of production or types of glass.

Tak Oda says they’d like to move their interests from the restaurant to the museum.

“I wish I could open up like this,” Aya Oda says of how the Wellington museum looks with its rows of glass cases and pieces representing individual glass companies.

Museum curator Linda Bredengerd is advising the Odas on how the NDGA museum operates. For instance, she says it’s good to have pieces to put on display but then have at least one of the same piece in storage.

“My goal is … four of everything so I can actually do table settings,” she says.

In addition to touring the museum, the Odas are making time for shopping there and elsewhere during their week in the Midwest. They have numerous favorite patterns.

Miss America is very pretty,” Aya Oda says, pointing to that pattern. “The name of it, Miss America, is very American, isn’t it?”

They also like Heritage and Fire King.

“Everything, everything,” Aya Oda says.

The Odas found the museum while researching their approximately 20 books on Depression glass. They want to become NDGA members.

They plan an April opening for their museum. Their main point, the Odas say, is to share the glass instead of hiding it in a closet.

Their trip is somewhat reminiscent of a “Bridges of Madison County” tour they took years ago while living here.

“To me this is more like ‘Back to the Future,’” Aya Oda says of the quaint downtown Wellington setting for the museum and their excitement at being there.

“To us, it’s like dreaming,” she says. “It’s like a movie.”