Destination Spotlight

History Of Dekoyashiki Craft District

History Of Dekoyashiki Craft District

'Takashiba Dekoyashiki' is the name given to a group of 4 residences-turned-museums-and-shops that make traditional crafts in Takashiba District of Koriyama City.

Each of these 4 residences is open for the public to come and visit most days (They are closed on Thursday though). The oldest residence is owned by a family who have continued to master their craft for the longest period of time, since the Edo Period. This residence is called 'Hiko Mingei'. The thatched roof of Hiko Mingei is hard to miss – the house is stunning, and dates back 400 years.

Usually at this point I’d start referring to the family who run Hiko Mingei by name, but every family living in Takashiba Dekoyashiki has the name 'Hashimoto', so differentiating by shop is the easiest way to describe them! I spoke to Daisuke san, the oldest son of the head craftsmen. Daisuke told me lots about the history of Takashiba Dekoyashiki, and spoke to me about what makes his family’s story a little different.


During the Edo Period, farming families living in the Takashiba District were far from affluent, and each family owned just a small area of land. It was hard for the families to make ends meet, especially during the winter months when farming was impossible. So the families began making figurines and charms out of wood in the winter months. Japan has a history of using charms and dolls at local Buddhist and Shinto festivals for hundreds of years, so there was a growing need for their production. I asked if the family still owned a farm, and Daisuke’s father answered that a long time ago, the production of crafts had gradually become the main business, and that none of the families in this area were involved in commercial farming any more.


As written above, 'Takashiba' is the name of the district where these residence are located. 'Yashiki' means 'Residence'. So that leaves 'Deko'.

'Deko' is an amalgamation of 2 words. The first is 'deku' 木偶, which means 'wooden figurine', and the second is 'Dogu' 土偶, which means 'dolls or figurines made out of earth'. The style of production at Takashiba Dekoyashiki gradually changed from being predominately wood-based to including 'earthen' materials necessary in techniques such as papier-mâché, and the name 'Dekoyashiki' reflects these changes.



The most famous craft originating in Takashiba District is the Miharu-koma wooden horse. This wooden horse is most commonly painted either black or white. Miharu-koma dolls were originally bought and exchanged as good luck charms used to pray for child-rearing.

The story of the Miharu-koma comes from 1200 years ago. According to legend, a shogun (coincidentally the same shogun who ordered the construction of the famous temple Kiyomizudera in Kyoto) headed north to conquer Miharu area. Before he left Kyoto, a priest gave him a small figurine of a horse as a good luck charm. This figurine was made from a left-over scrap of wood. He took this charm with him to Tohoku.

During battle, when it seemed like he was going to lose, the good luck charm he received from the priest turned into 100 real horses, which led to his clear victory in conquering the area. According to some stories, the original good luck charm horse was even found in Takashiba area! Since the Edo Period, horse figurines have been created and sold in Takashiba as charms to help children grow up big and strong. The black horse is supposed to represent children growing up strong, and the white horse represents longevity.

Takashiba District remained in Miharu Town until the end of the 19th century, when it became a part of Koriyama City. During the Edo Period, Miharu was famous for the talent of its people in taming and selling wild horses. Horses in this area grew super famous, and almost had their own brand – the Miharu-koma. Over the years, the very long name given to the wooden horse figurines created in Takashiba area became conflated with the name for the horses sold in Miharu Town, and the doll became known as Miharu-koma.


When you think of Daruma dolls, you might think of Shirakawa Daruma or Takasaki Daruma. Both of these styles of daruma are famous for having no eyes at the time when the time of purchasing. I thought this was pretty standard across Japan, but apparently this practice occurs predominately in the Kanto region of Japan, and in fact daruma traditionally had their eyes painted in before being sold.

In Shirakawa and Takasaki, daruma are sold as 'goal setting dolls' or inspirational daruma, to held their owners focus on a task or goal they want to complete while they’re painting in the eye of one daruma, and then completing the other eye once they have successful achieved their goal.

However, the tradition of keeping daruma doll in your house started in the hopes of warding off evil spirits. The design of daruma is thought to be basd off of the image of a Buddhist monk meditating hard. Daruma dolls which are meant to scare off anything evil through their intense glare. That’s why they always look a bit anger!

Like Shirakawa City, Miharu Town holds a daruma market every year. Many people buy a replacement, or additional, daruma every year. Apparently it’s quite popular for people to buy a bigger size daruma every year! In this case that there are no bigger daruma, you would start once again buying and collecting daruma in the smallest size again from the next year.


While the Miharu-koma and Daruma are thought of as good luck charms which are only really effective for the year you buy them, there is one craft object made at Dekoyashiki can be enjoyed year after year!

I’m referring to the papier-mâché masks made here for use at festivals at local shrines. The characters on these masks are usually a 'Hyottoko' (a cheeky young man), a woman, or one of 7 gods known as the Shichi-fuku-jin. This is a group of Buddhist gods.

The Shichi-fuku-jin are all related to fishing, farming and agriculture. People in this area, like in many rural farming areas of Japan, used to find comfort in praying to the gods to ask for a good harvest in the year to come.

Before the introduction of Buddhism, Japanese people used to pray to shinto gods, which were usually closely connected to various aspects and elements of nature, and may not have a physical shape. With Buddhism came the ability to pray to 'gods' with human features, and entrust in them the ability to ensure or take away a good harvest as a way of explaining the natural phenomenons such as drought.

One of the ways in which the Shichi-fuku-jin were shown respect and praise was in the holding of dances at local festivals. Somebody would dress up as each of the 7 gods, 2 more people would play the Hyottoko and the woman, and a couple more would accompany the dancers with instruments. Local people would wear masks to get into character.

However, it is difficult to coordinate at least 10 people to get together for a dance, so the families of Takashiba Dekoyashiki only really hold a big dance once a year, and dances including just the Hyottoko are much more common. If you’re lucky, you might get a little glimpse of the Hyottoko dance when you visit the Dekoyashiki residences! (The owner of Hiroji Mingei is the resident expert!) I was lucky enough to have the head of Hiko Mingei perform the dance for me!


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  1. Useful Information

    A Complete Guide to Visiting Fukushima During Winter

    The coldest months of the year bring beautiful scenery to Fukushima prefecture.  Kaneyama Fureai Hiroba Viewpoint From snow-capped mountains and thatched-roof houses in the Aizu area to the refreshing view of the sunrise over the iconic Bentenjima Shrine in the Hattachi coast, there is a wide variety of attractions and activities to enjoy during winter in Fukushima. We’ve compiled some useful information to make your winter getaway to Fukushima prefecture smoother and more enjoyable! Yanaizu Town Transportation Checking the Status of the Roads Before Departure Especially in the Aizu and Central areas of Fukushima, a snow storm could occasionally block some roads or affect visibility (a phenomenon known as a whiteout). Checking the status of the roads makes your trip safer and can help you foresee potential delays. This webpage shows camera footage of the status of the roads (available only in Japanese). Click or tap on the camera button in the area you’re planning on visiting. Select the road you’d like to see on the new pop-up window. In most rent-a-car facilities, you'll be asked where you’re going and be given a vehicle equipped with what you need (winter tires, chains, etc.). Preparing for Longer Travel Times Because road conditions change unexpectedly, it’s best to expect longer travel times, particularly if you’re traveling by bus or car. As an example, check the following estimates: Aizu-Wakamatsu City to Ouchi-juku: normally takes around 45 min. (90 min on snow-covered roads) Ouchi-juku to Tadami: normally takes around 90 min. (150 min. on snow-covered roads) Tadami to Kaneyama Town: normally takes around 40 min. (90 min. on snow-covered roads) Kaneyama Town to Mishima Town: normally takes around 30 min. (90 min. on snow-covered roads) Mishima Town to Aizu-Wakamatsu City: normally takes around 50 min. (120 min. on snow-covered roads). Finding the Public Transportation Winter Schedule Some buses or trains, like the Saruyuugou loop bus in Ouchi-juku, have different schedules in the winter. The service can either become reduced or extended for special events. If you’ll be relying on public transportation, take a close look at the time schedule for any notations of changes during the winter. If it’s only in Japanese and you can’t read it, inquire at the closest station or local tourist information office (or send us a message and we’ll do our best to assist you). Some hotels and ski resorts offer shuttle bus services to and from the closest station, such as the Minowa Ski Resort free shuttle bus service from Fukushima station. Be sure to make a reservation in advance. Activities Extreme Onsen Experience We’ve been getting many inquiries about the Extreme Onsen Experience recently. For safety reasons, it’s not possible to climb Mount Adatara when it’s covered by snow, so the tour becomes temporarily unavailable until the snow melts in the spring (write us a message if you’d like to be notified once the tour becomes available again!). Alternatively... Soaking in the hot springs while contemplating a snowy landscape is a truly magical experience that you can enjoy in many other onsen towns in Fukushima, like the nostalgic Tsuchiyu Onsen Town. Tsuchiyu Onsen Town Goshiki-numa Ponds If you’d like to visit the Goshiki-numa ponds during winter, we recommend booking a snowshoe tour and going with an experienced guide, as travelers are discouraged from visiting independently. Goshikinuma Ponds Snowshoe Experience If you’re interested in the experience, recommend contacting Aizu Dream Development, which organizes winter tours to Goshikinuma, and has English support. Other Places That Are or May Become Closed for the Winter Here are some sightseeing spots, experiences and tours that are only (or mostly) available from spring to fall (usually April to November) and could thus become unavailable during the winter: Unavailable In the Winter Still available, but... The Bandai-Azuma Skyline Crossing Mugenkyo Ravine by Ferry (Mugenkyo no Watashi) Extreme Onsen Experience, Soma City Bamboo Fishing Tour, SUP Experience at Menuma Pond and the Ouchi-juku Time Slip & Soba Making Experience. Ebisu Circuit could become closed in case of heavy snowfall (check the live camera and contact Ebisu Circuit directly for more information)   Goshiki-numa and Oze National Park are closed to individual travelers and some of their facilities become unavailable. For safety reasons, it is advised for travelers to only visit as part of a guided tour organized by a reputable company or with an appropriate permit. Experiences that are still available during the winter months: The Ouchi-juku kimono experience,  Kitakata Ramen-Making Experience, Minamiaizu Private Taxi Program and the Minamisoma Coast Trekking. Finding Winter Destinations While some places and experiences enter an hibernation of sorts, others take center stage. Ski slopes, with powder snow and lots of activities for the entire family, become one of the main attractions in Fukushima (check out our 2-day skiing itinerary here). Winter festivals, illuminations and other events enliven several spots around Fukushima (check our calendar for winter events in Fukushima in 2023). If You’re Planning The Ultimate Winter Road Trip... Bring snacks and drinks with you! Japanese convenience stores and vending machines are spread out in remote rural areas. It’s always safer to bring snacks and drinks with you, particularly if you are traveling with children. If you would like to know where to go for pit stops, roadside stations, known in Japanese as “michi no eki” (道の駅) usually have local specialty foods and souvenirs. Prepare for the Unexpected—and the Beautiful We recently visited the famous No. 1 Tadami River Bridge Viewpoint with my coworker. In the morning, we were told that the JR Tadami Line, which famously runs over the scenic bridge, had canceled operations for the day due to heavy snowfall, but we decided to go anyway. When we arrived at the viewpoint, it was snowing heavily and there was zero visibility—the iconic view was nothing but an indistinguishable mass of white and gray. We decided to drive to another scenic point (Kaneyama Fureai Hiroba Viewpoint) hoping the sky would clear up. It finally did and we were lucky to get beautiful shots of both places. You never know when you can enjoy a snow-covered landscape with clear skies. Winter is a delightful season to travel around Fukushima and take in the views of its many scenic towns, winter festivals, and glistening lakes nested in the mountains. Miyakoji Area in Tamura City The coastal area is also worth a visit during this time; its famous sunshine and tropical feel make it a perfect getaway from the harsher cold inland. If you’re thinking of visiting the sunny city of Iwaki, check out our recent post, 5 Things to Do in Iwaki City This Winter. If you have any questions about traveling in Fukushima, please send it to us using the contact form you can find on our website. We hope you enjoy your stay in Fukushima!

    A Complete Guide to Visiting Fukushima During Winter
  2. Destination Spotlight

    Modern Samurai Horsemanship in Minamisoma City

    Minamisoma city, located in Fukushima prefecture’s coastal area, is a fascinating place to discover the role that horses played in Japanese history, and to witness how a community deeply rooted in samurai heritage adapts centuries-old equine traditions to modern times. Copyright © Minamisoma City Horses have remained a usual sight in Minamisoma (南相馬), a small city in the Northeastern part of Fukushima prefecture, in spite of disappearing from most other areas in Japan following the country’s modernization. Walking through Minamisoma today, you might notice horses grazing in the fields, or hear a distant clopping of horse hoofs against the pavement. People in Minamisoma have lived alongside horses for centuries—this is a great city for visitors wanting to see a slice of modern-old Japan that remains largely unseen by mainstream tourism. A Glimpse into Minamisoma City’s History The area that we now call Minamisoma was once an important enclave for the Soma samurai clan, which ruled over the land from the Kamakura period of Japanese history (1185–⁠1333) until the 19th century. The Soma samurai did military drills with wild horses, a practice that continued for over a thousand years and evolved (adapted from its original form) into a festival that is still celebrated today and draws thousands of visitors each year, the Soma Nomaoi Festival. Following the end of samurai rule, Minamisoma specialized in the manufacture of silk and housed a military aviation school, which was destroyed during WWII. Even though industrialization brought about big changes, the bond between people and horses never fully went away from the hearts, minds and daily lives of people of the area we now call Minamisoma. The Impact of March 11 in Minamisoma Credit: Earthquake Memorial Museum (Tohoku Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) 出典:東北地方整備局 The 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster deeply affected Minamisoma city. Many lives were lost and precious infrastructure was damaged. Radiation levels increased in Minamisoma immediately after the accident, but they have decreased since, and are now comparable to those in other cities in Japan. The city has seen thorough decontamination and reconstruction efforts during the past few years, and has now become a popular spot to relax and enjoy equine culture. Copyright © Minamisoma City Over 50,000 people live in Minamisoma City today, making it one of the main hubs in Fukushima’s coastal area. Odaka Ward in Minamisoma City 5 Ways To Experience Minamisoma’s Equestrian Tradition Once used for transportation, warfare, and food, horses were a common sight in feudal Japan but, with time, modern technologies largely displaced them. Minamisoma City is one of the rare places in Japan where people still hold horsemanship as an important value in daily life. Here are 5 ways to experience the equine values of Minamisoma in and around the city: Horseback riding along the coast As part of the horseback riding experience, visitors get to ride along the coast of Minamisoma City with an experienced guide (English-language support is available). This experience is available (and recommended!) even for beginner riders. You can find more information about how to book it here. Soma Nomaoi Festival If you think that horseback riding samurai were a thing of the past, you are yet to attend the Soma Nomaoi Festival. The festival, which has roots in the city’s samurai history, is held on July 29, 30 and 31 every year, and features parades, a capture the flag event, and more. Read a detailed account of the event here. Fireworks at the Soma Nomaoi Festival in Minamisoma City. Copyright © Minamisoma City Minamisoma City Museum Minamisoma is a fascinating city with deep-rooted traditions. The Minamisoma City Museum, which has explanations in English, is the perfect destination for lovers of history who would like to learn more about the area. Soma Nakamura Shrine The Soma Nakamura Shrine, located not in Minamisoma City but in neighboring Soma City, was designated as a national important cultural property in 1984, is a wooden shrine nested in a tall forest which has several statues and prayer boards inspired by horses. It is a peaceful place, perfect to relax and soak the fragrant pine atmosphere. Souvenir shopping at Sedette Kashima Sedette Kashima is a service area where you can enjoy a delicious meal and indulge in some souvenir shopping. What makes Sedette Kashima unique is its widespread horse imagery, and the many unique horse-themed souvenirs and local products for sale. Sedette Kashima seen from above. Copyright © Minamisoma City Getting to Minamisoma Minamisoma City is located in the Northeastern part of Fukushima prefecture. The city is easily reachable by car or by train. By Car:  From Fukushima (JR/Shinkansen) Sta. in Fukushima City: Approx. 1 hour 10 minutes. View Directions From Sendai (JR/Shinkansen) Sta. in Miyagi Prefecture: Approx 1 hour 10 minutes. View Directions From Tokyo: Approx. 3 hours 30 min. View Directions By Train: From Tokyo Station: Approx. 3 hours 30 min. by JR Hitachi 26 Limited Express Shinagawa to Haranomachi Sta. in Minamisoma City; or 3 hours 30 min. by shinkansen and JR train (shinkansen from Tokyo Sta. to Sendai Sta. and JR Joban line from Sendai Sta. to Haranomachi Sta.). You can find more information about access to Minamisoma here. If you’d like to know more about Minamisoma, please refer to the city’s English homepage. If you are visiting by train, we recommend renting a car at Haranomachi Sta. to get around the city, as many of the locations listed above are not easily accessed by public transportation.

    Modern Samurai Horsemanship in Minamisoma City
  3. Useful Information

    Rotenburo Heaven – Private Open-air Baths In Fukushima

    In this article, I’m going to introduce you to a number of traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) in onsen towns throughout Fukushima where you can experience the magic of private rotenburo outdoor baths. WHAT ARE ROTENBURO? 'Rotenburo' translates as ‘open-air bath’. The word refers to onsen baths that are located fully or partially outside. Depending on the location, bathers might be sheltered from the elements to some extent by roofs and bamboo walls, trees, glass windows etc. Rotenburo are very popular in Japanese onsen towns, especially during the winter months, when guests can enjoy bathing in a hot bath whilst surrounded by snowy mountains. WHY USE PRIVATE BATHS? At ryokan hotels in Japan, it is common to bathe together with other guests of the same sex, and in some cases, together with guests regardless of sex. There are, however, many people who prefer to bathe alone, or in the company of friends, family and loved ones. This is one of the main reasons why people use private baths, or ‘kashikiri buro‘. Another reason is that Japan has a long history of tattoos being associated with gangsters known as yakuza. Of course, the majority of tattoo designs don’t resemble those traditional ones sported by yakuza, but even so, it has remained taboo to enter a public (or shared) bath if you have a tattoo. Although many ryokan turn a blind eye to this rule, it’s still the official policy of many ryokan and hotel in Japan to turn away guests with tattoos from using baths shared with other guests. In order to avoid any drama, and any potential stares, many tourists from overseas choose to use private baths when they stay at ryokan hotels. Private baths can usually be booked at the front desk of the ryokan hotel, and guests are usually asked to choose a specific time to bathe. WHICH RYOKAN IN FUKUSHIMA PREFECTURE HAVE PRIVATE OPEN-AIR BATHS? There are around 130 hot springs in Fukushima Prefecture and hundreds of ryokan hotels. In order to make a list of suggestions, I’ve had to cut this number down quite a lot. I’ve decided to highlight the ryokan hotels in Fukushima Prefecture where guests can book private rotenburo, giving priority to those with English websites or associated websites which make it easy to book even if you don’t speak Japanese. There are so many amazing ryokan in Fukushima Prefecture, and this list is by no means extensive. Ryokan Hotel Private Rotenburo (Overnight Guests) Private Rotenburo (Day Guests) English Website Price 1) Harataki   (Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu) 2000 yen (50 min) 2) Takinoyu   (Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu) No extra cost for overnight guests 3) Seifutei   (Bandaisan Roku Onsen, Inawashiro) (Computer translation) No extra cost for overnight guests 4) Okawaso   (Ashinomaki Onsen, Aizu) 3240 yen (45 min) 5) Yoshikawaya   (Iizaka Onsen, Fukushima City) 2160 yen (45 min) + 1000 yen per person for day visit 6) Kikuya Ryokan   (Iizaka Onsen, Fukushima City) (Computer translation) 30 min for free 7) New Ougiya   (Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City) No extra cost for overnight guests 8) Sansuiso   (Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City) 1080 yen (60 min) 9) Yumori Onsen Hostel   (Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City)   (Responds in English to Facebook  messages) 2000~4000 yen per bath for overnight guests. 10) Furutakiya   (Yumoto Onsen, Iwaki) (Computer translation) 1000 yen (45 min) + 800 yen per person   AIZU AREA Aizu is known for its very snowy winters and long history. 1) Harataki A tattoo-friendly ryokan hotel in Higashiyama Onsen, Aizu-Wakamatsu City. Day-guests and overnight-guests can use the private open-air baths. When I stayed a couple of years ago, they even had CD players so you could play music while you bathed! More information on Fukushima.Travel English website here 2) Takinoyu Also located in Higashiyama Onsen. Private rotenburo open-air baths are free to book for overnight guests at Takinoyu Ryokan Hotel. More information on Fukushima.Travel English website here 3) Seifutei Every room at this ryokan in Inawashiro Town has its own en-suite open-air private bath so you don’t even have to worry about booking time-slots for going in the bath. Their homepage has an automatic translation function. Seifutei can also be found on & other booking sites. 4) Ookawaso Ookawaso ryokan is in Ashinomaki Onsen town (the town is known for it’s cat station master)! Ookawaso has a great selection of food at its dinner buffet, which is really good for those who don’t want to be forced into eating a specific, Japanese-style meal. Overnight guests can book and pay an extra price to use the open-air private baths, but only 4 groups can make a booking each night, due to time and space restrictions. Reservations in English can be made directly via email, or through a booking website. More information on Fukushima.Travel Here is their homepage. NAKADORI AREA Ryokan hotel in the central region of Fukushima Prefecture. 5) Yoshikawaya Large ryokan hotel in Iizaka Onsen, near central Fukushima Station. Yoshikawaya Ryokan welcomes guests during the day and evening to use its open-air baths. It costs 2160 yen for each group to book the private bath for 45 minutes, as well as a 1000 yen charge per person. They’re featured on a number of booking sites. More information on Fukushima.Travel English homepage 6) Kikuya Ryokan Ryokan in Iizaka Onsen. Kikuya Ryokan offers guests who stay the night a free 30 minutes in the private open-air bath, as well as the chance to dip in all the other baths. Their website is machine translated but is ok to understand. They are also featured on some booking sites where bookings can be conducted in English. Machine-translated English homepage 7) New Ougiya New Ougiya Ryokan in Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima City has private open-air baths free for overnight guests to use. They’re featured on a couple of English-language booking sites. They also have an English website. 8) Sansuiso Large ryokan hotel in Tsuchiyu Onsen. Overnight guests can bathe for 1 hour in a private half-covered open-air bath for 1080 yen. Featured on English-language booking sites. More information on Fukushima.Travel See their English homepage here. 9) Yumori Onsen Hostel Recently-opened hostel in Tsuchiyu Onsen with very reasonable prices. Tattoo friendly onsen. They have English-speaking staff who can answer any questions you might have via their Facebook Page (See here). See their homepage here. IWAKI AREA Iwaki has much milder winters than the western and central part of Fukushima Prefecture, so visit Iwaki if you want to avoid the snow as much as possible!   10) Furutakiya In scenic Iwaki Yumoto Onsen town by the coast. Private open-air baths can be reserved by overnight guests and day-guests. This ryokan has private open-air baths that can be rented for 1000 yen per 45 minutes (plus 800 yen per person for day-guests). Featured on English-language booking websites. Automatic-translation available on their website

    Rotenburo Heaven – Private Open-air Baths In Fukushima