Paint Your Own Akabeko

Paint Your Own Akabeko

What is 'Akabeko'?

The akabeko legend started at Enzoji Temple in Yanaizu Town, in the Aizu region. The construction of this temple began in the year 807, but due to a huge earthquake at the end of the seventeenth century, it had to be repaired in 1617. It was during the reconstruction of the temple that the akabeko became a folk legend.

It is said that moving the wood and other supplies necessary for the reconstruction work was incredibly difficult because materials had to be transported from various villages upstream of the Tadami River. The materials were heavy and the journey to the temple was long. Cattle were used to transport materials, but many struggled to bear their loads.

Then, out of nowhere, appeared a cow with a red coat. (It should be noted that, in the past, the word ‘red’ was used to describe the color ‘brown’, so it is likely that it was a brown cow.) The red cow supported the other cows and helped the priests who were constructing the temple until it was completed. Then, it suddenly vanished.

'Akabeko' means 'red cow' in the local dialect.

A number of statues of the cow were built inside the temple grounds so that the people of Yanaizu could express their gratitude to the akabeko.

In the years following, there was a range of legends about the akabeko, with stories such as families who owned akabeko being rid of sickness upon stroking the cows. They continued to hold their status of bringers of good luck and strength. Families bought or made akabeko toys for their young children to play with.

Akabeko Painting Experiences

In recent history, the Aizu tradition of painting akabeko began. It is said that this tradition started as something to do for children visiting Aizu-Wakamatsu City as part of school trips. This was when the story of the Akabeko evolved once more, into its newest papier-mâché form. The stripes on the face and back of the papier-mâché Akabeko are said to represent strength and perseverance.

There are a number of workshops in Aizu-Wakamatsu City where you can paint your own Akabeko. Most workshops offer the standard red, white, and black paint. These talismans for good health make very cute and lightweight souvenirs to take home for family and friends – or keep for yourself! Those who prefer to buy a ready-painted Akabeko will be able to find it at most souvenir shops.

Booking

If you would like to book an akabeko painting experience at the Tsurugajo Kaikan (a shopping complex located next to Tsurugajo Castle), please access this page.

Venue Details

Venue Details
Best SeasonAll Year
Access Details
Getting there

You can try painting your own Akabeko at the following places: - Tsurugajo Kaikan (Aizu-Wakamatsu City) - Aizu Hanko Nisshinkan (Aizu-Wakamatsu City) - Bansho (Aizu-Wakamatsu City) - Hot in Yanaizu (Yanaizu Town)

Useful Links

Fukushima Crafts

Try Your Hand at Designing Local Crafts

Enzoji Temple

Nearby

The World Glassware Hall
Cultural Experiences

Ride the Oza-Toro-Tembo Train

The Oza-Toro-Tembo Train is a limited-service sightseeing train which is operated during selected days of the peak tourist seasons. The train has three carriages - the oza carriage (which has a tatami-floor), the torokko (tram) carriage, and the tembo (observation deck) carriage. Stretch out and relax in the tatami carriage with its sunken kotatsu (heated table) in autumn, take in Aizu's nature and air from the tram carriage, and revel in the fantastic scenery that await you through the expansive windows of the observation deck carriage. The train runs along the Aizu Railway tracks, meaning you can hop off at various points to visit places such as Ouchi-juku (a 15 minute taxi ride from Yunokami Onsen Station), and To-no-Hetsuri Crags, among others. For information about when this train runs this year, please check out this link (Japanese).

The World Glassware Hall
Cultural Experiences

Aizu Painted Candles Craft Experience

Aizu Erosoku (painted candles) are sumptuous items that were long-prized among samurai families. Delicate and vivid patterns such as chrysanthemums, plum blossoms, and peonies are painted onto candles made of natural Japan wax extracted from the fruits of lacquer trees. Each candle is still painstakingly painted one by one, and they serve as regal decorations in Shinto and Buddhist ceremonies and weddings. A candle painting experience is available at Ozawa Candle Shop (Reservation required).

You might also like

Ride the Oza-Toro-Tembo Train
Cultural Experiences

Ride the Oza-Toro-Tembo Train

The Oza-Toro-Tembo Train is a limited-service sightseeing train which is operated during selected days of the peak tourist seasons. The train has three carriages - the oza carriage (which has a tatami-floor), the torokko (tram) carriage, and the tembo (observation deck) carriage. Stretch out and relax in the tatami carriage with its sunken kotatsu (heated table) in autumn, take in Aizu's nature and air from the tram carriage, and revel in the fantastic scenery that await you through the expansive windows of the observation deck carriage. The train runs along the Aizu Railway tracks, meaning you can hop off at various points to visit places such as Ouchi-juku (a 15 minute taxi ride from Yunokami Onsen Station), and To-no-Hetsuri Crags, among others. For information about when this train runs this year, please check out this link (Japanese).

Makie Painting Lacquerware Experience at Suzuzen
Cultural Experiences

Makie Painting Lacquerware Experience at Suzuzen

Suzuzen was established in 1832 as a lacquerware wholesale shop. Not only can visitors see process of lacquerware being finished using gold and silver dusted designs called 'Makie', but visitors can also have the opportunity to design their own lacquered product using Makie design techniques, which is perfect to take home as a souvenir. Booking & More InformationSuzuzen is made up of 6 kura (Japanese-style warehouses), which have been renovated. The Suzuzen warehouses include a gallery featuring pieces by contemporary artists who use lacquer in their work, and a cafe which is open for lunch. English-language signs also make the history of lacquer in Aizu accessible for overseas visitors.

Makie Painting at Suzutake Workshop
Cultural Experiences

Makie Painting at Suzutake Workshop

Suzutake workshop tours began in the 1950s as a way of providing families with a chance to learn about the history and artistry of lacquerware. Even today, visitors are able to actually see artisans at work at three key stages of the Aizu lacquerware making process: 1) applying a base layer of unrefined lacquer or astringent liquid to wood; 2) adding additional layers of lacquer in a desired style, and 3) adding hand-drawn delicate designs ('makie') using either colored lacquer or gold and silver power (a technique called 'Sunken gold makie'). Visitors can also take part in a makie-painting experience.

Tsukimigaoka Chomin Center
Cultural Experiences

Tsukimigaoka Chomin Center

Tsukimigaoka Chomin Center (a town hall-turned-hotel which is only a 20-minute walk from Aizu Yanaizu Station) is known for their famous sauce katsudon lunch. This dish contains fried pork cutlet and a simple egg omelet on rice which is covered with a savory sauce that simply melts in your mouth. There are other places in Yanaizu that serve the katsudon dish as well, but according to local opinion, the katsudon at Yanaizu Chomin Center is hard to beat. Why not stop by and fill your stomach before taking in the other local sights? There are even some great shared hot spring baths, which can be enjoyed as day visit onsen. There are plenty of nearby attractions. Enjoy your time hiking or fishing or at the nearby Kiyoshi Saito Museum of Art or the beautiful and serene Enzoji Temple. Kiyoshi Saito Museum of Art houses works by esteemed woodblock artist Kiyoshi Saito and the beautiful works he created throughout his lifetime. At the Enzoji Temple experience tranquility and nature, also learn about the origin legend of the akabeko, the nodding red cow famous in the area. And only a 15-minute drive away you can look at the No. 1 Tadami River Bridge View Spot; this bridge offers a spectacular sight of the Tadami River and the surrounding nature.

Top