•About this Charm•
AkaBeko – "Red Cow/Bull" – Origin: Yanaizu, Fukushima Prefecture.
If you touch this toy cow (do it now.) It nods and it nods and it nods and it nods.... its very agreeable...
its said that this toy in particular is based off a real Red Ox who, as legend has it, appeared & helped workers carry wooden beams during construction of the Enzō-ji temple in Yanaizu way back in 807 CE! - the temple was built on a very sheer cliff & its because of the cows & oxen they where able to complete construction – When the temple was completed, it's said that the Akabeko gave its spirit to Buddha and it then turned to stone. (though... some telling also say that it simply stuck around and that it refused to leave so it was treated a bit like a mascot haha.) – Larger statues can also be seen at tourism & lucky spots dotted around Fukushima: Yanaizu has a 'family' of cow statues as well. it's good luck to pat their head and make them nod when you see them! - It should also be noted that "Beko" is local Aizu dialect for "Ox or Bull" and that elsewhere in Japan oxen are generally referred to as "Ushi."
They are traditionally made using the Hariko technique: using extra thin layered washi paper on clay or wood.) - These techniques predate the Edo period (approx: 1615–1868) and date back as afar as Muromachi period. (1336-1573) - These sorts of paper mache toys became especially popular during the smallpox epidemics (1830-1849) & stuck around afterwards as an auspicious souvenir.
Akabeko are given as gifts on new years (or for other lucky occasions!) - The markings painted on the toy also vary regionally depending on where you get it, (think of them sort of like maker marks, no two handmade versions are exactly alike.) – The dots on the sides supposedly represent the sun and the moon and are present on most cows in someway or another!