Paint Your Own Akabeko

Paint Your Own 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, repair work begun 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 Tadami River. The materials were heavy and the journey to the temple 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 colour ‘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.

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 were 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 light-weight 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.

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)

Nearby

The World Glassware Hall
Cultural Experiences

Kuimaru Elementary School

Kuimaru Elementary School is a historic Japanese school that was built during the Showa era of Japan, making it over 80 years old! In the 1980s, a modern elementary school was built nearby, leaving this old school house abandoned. Fortunately, this building was preserved and converted into a museum. It happens to be one of only a handful of old fashioned schools left standing in Japan! Here you can explore the old school grounds including a large ginkgo tree that is over 100 years old. A long standing symbol of the school. In Autumn (early to mid-November) the leaves turn a beautiful golden yellow, and when they fall, the school yard is carpeted in these golden leaves. The school building has undergone some light renovations, but the charm of this old building has been beautifully preserved. Inside the building you can wander through the halls and explore the classrooms, you can sit at the little wooden desks, page through some old textbooks and imagine what it would have been like to be a student here around 80 years ago! Fun fact: The school building was once used as a filming location for the 2013 movie Hameln (ハーメルン). After you explore the school if you are feeling a bit hungry, there is a café next door called “Soba Café SCHOLA” that serves 100% buckwheat noodles (soba noodles) as well as other dishes created with 100% buckwheat (soba) flour. These dishes are naturally gluten-free and delicious.

The World Glassware Hall
Outdoor Activities

Smelt Ice Fishing

Come be surrounded by Mother Nature, enjoy ice fishing, and eat delicious, fresh smelt in Urabandai! During November and December, smelt fishing is done from on board a traditional Japanese houseboat. From January through March, it can be enjoyed atop the ice. The houseboats and the rental houses available for ice fishing allow you to fish in warmth and comfort. A one-day, 700 fishing permit is required and can be purchased at convenience stores in Urabandai. For information about smelt fishing, please contact the Urabandai Tourism Association.

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