A Fun Cultural Activity in Yanaizu Town of the Aizu Region
In Yanaizu, there are adorable red cows found throughout the town, from life-sized statues to cute motifs. This small picturesque village, located in the heart of the Aizu region in the west of Fukushima Prefecture, is known as the home town of the Akabeko!
Legend has it that in 1617, the Enzoji Temple was reconstructed after a great earthquake hit it. The people faced the difficulty of transporting timber and other supplies upstream of Tadami River where the temple is situated. It was then a herd of red cattle (akabeko) appeared, helping them carry the wood, which allowed the temple’s repair work to be completed.
Statues of the akabeko were built inside the Enzoji Temple so that the people of Yanaizu could express their gratitude. Since then, the akabeko has become a revered folk legend.
As a bearer of good luck and strength, the cheery red cow is the subject of various decorations, and akabeko toys can be found in families with young children. There are also workshops that let you try your hand at the tradition of painting akabeko figures!
For a unique Aizu experience, have a go at the hands-on akabeko painting. The white stripes on the face and body of the cow are said to represent strength and perseverance. Not only do these hand-painted akabekos make cute and unique travel souvenirs, but they also double up as charms to ward off illness and disaster.
The experience takes about an hour and is suitable for all ages.
The small town of Yanaizu is perfect for a relaxing stroll to enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere of the streets as well as take in the scenic sights. You can also go on a hunt for the five members of the akabeko family - father Fukutaro, mother Mitsuko, son Mo-kun, daughter Ai-chan, baby son Yanagimaru. One of them is located right on the grounds of the historical Enzoji temple!