Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Akabeko

I've written a bit about the Akabeko in my earlier post on Aizu-Wakamatsu some time back, but I just thought I'd post it up again. Why? Because it's sooooooo cute! That's why.

When we first see this, we thought of it as a dog mascot or a pig or something. Arriving Aizu-Wakamatsu station, we saw this red animal but had no idea what it was. It's one of those times that I learn about something of the place after visiting, by searching for info on it.

Yup, I only learnt about the story/legend of akabeko after our trip to Aizu-Wakamatsu. But, better late than not knowing at all, right?
Raimie and a mechanical akabeko in frontof Aizu-Wakamatsu station, while waiting to board the steam locomotive SL Bantetsu Monogatari Go from Aizu-Wakamatsu to Niigata.

Anyhoo, an akabeko ( 赤べこ) is a toy from the Aizu region, made from two pieces papier-mache covered bamboo or wooden frame and shaped & painted to look like a red cow/ox. One piece represents the head & neck and the other piece for its body. The head &neck hangs from a string and fits into a hollow body, enabling the head to bob up and down whenever it is moved.

The toy is based on a real cow that helped in the construction of a temple; Enzo-Ji. Upon completion of the temple, the cow had willingly give its soul to Buddha. Another version mentioned that the cow had refused to leave the construction site and became a permanent fixture there. The cow then became a symbol of zealous devotion to the Buddha.

Akabeko toys was reportedly created during the late 16th or early 17th century and became popular as charms to ward off small pox and other illnesses, and the superstition prevails until current time.

I wish I bought an akabeko as a souvenir. Even without the superstition, the red cow makes a totally cute souvenir.


  1. Very cute and would make a fantastic souvenir from Japan.

    Japan Australia

  2. @Japan Australia,
    Indeed.And the lore behind it makes it interesting too.

  3. If you want to buy it, I can buy it online and send you it.
    Anyway, it's cute that my children like it.:)

  4. @cocomino,
    That's sweet of you to offer. Thank you *^-^*

    But nawwww...I like my souvenirs bought myself at the places I visited. Hence, I need to revisit Aizu area again! That's a motivation for a repeat visit, right? :)

    Good to know your daughters like it. My son was interested in them too.

  5. I see. I can understand what you mean. :-)
    Hope your great next trip.

  6. @cocomino,
    Thank you for understanding. ^^

    And yes, I hope we'll have a great trip in Japan soon! :)

  7. red cow/ox? but it does look more like a pig.. maybe they should trim the "nose" a little.. the legend is interesting though.. there are many interesting japanese legends actually.. :)

  8. @Bella,
    It sure does, right? When we first saw it we were "arguing" amongst ourselves trying to figure the animal and actually came out with pig-dog variant. Hahaha Hence the reason we didn't buy any for souvenirs. Shows how ignorance can affect people, eh?

    Yeah. Japan has interesting legends. Just like we do here too. ^^

  9. I thought it was a piggy @0@ A cow, indeed! Haha!

  10. Thought it was a dog..make sure this is not mad cow haha.

  11. Sorry didn't pop by often pretty busy nowadays and that's good news else no food on the table hahaha.

  12. @ristinw,
    Right? The animal looks can be so deceiving. LOL

  13. @Bananazஇ,
    But the cow in the legend can be classified as mad, if it do this in current time. Kakaka Why need to sacrifice one's life. We are living in materialistic world now. huhuhu

    Great to hear you being busy. Busy means work. Work means money. Right? ^^

  14. The drawing in your first picture looks like a dog, but it sounds like it can "morph" into other types of animals. You will probably see another one to buy during your upcoming trip.

  15. @AVCr8teur,
    Maybe. But I'd only buy it if we travel to the area. :)

  16. Ha! Couldn't agree with you more.
    The first picture looks like a dog but the second one looks like a roast pork.

    I've seen this akabeko toy somewhere before.
    I think from my stamp collection.

  17. @London Caller,
    Oh yeah, definitely look like a whole roast pork, all red and glistening. xD

  18. Wow! I want that akabeko as souvenir!! So cute!

  19. But then again, I think I prefer a panda as souvenir haha!!!

  20. @foong,
    yeah, make up your mind. Black & white panda or red cow? xD

  21. My friend Presented Akabekos to all of attendants in his marrage ceremony. It is lucky cow.

  22. @minor,
    That's a lovely wedding favour to give to guests. :)

  23. kawaii!

    The history behind sure left the ox a legend :).

  24. @LV,
    It sure is.

    A cute legend. ^^


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