|Mt Zao. And look what else!|
Since Sendai is about a 5.5-hour drive from our home we got up quite early Sunday morning in order to hit the open road before everyone else did. That tactic worked and we made good time on the Tohoku Expressway. Our first goal was Togatta Onsen 遠刈田温泉, which kokeshi scholars believe might be the birthplace of traditional kokeshis. Whether or not that is true Togatta is indeed a true kokeshi town like Naruko Onsen, and it's a must-visit location for any kokeshi enthusiast. Togatta, at 330 meters above sea level is part-way up to Mt. Zao 蔵王山, a major ski resort on the border between Miyagi Yamagata Prefectures. We had spectacular views of the mountain the whole time we were there, which made the trip that much better. As with previous trips, our goal was to find nice onsens as well as kokeshi makers. We stayed on the ninth floor of a huge Daiwa resort hotel which had reasonable rates, WiFi in the room, and a fantastic view of Mt. Zao. It also had a nice onsen in the basement, which felt great after our long drive. The only downside to staying in the Togatta area is that it's right on the edge of the northern reaches of the Fukushima Power Plant radiation disaster. That is, if someone were to pull out a Geiger counter in this area he might get some readings above background. As we all know low-level radiation like that is pretty harmless, but it didn't make me feel any better when a man we chatted with said he wouldn't recommend eating the mushrooms from local farmers. Therefore, I was a bit wary of the kids touching things the whole time we were in the area.
|Togatta's kokeshi bridge.|
Next Blog: The Togatta Kokeshi Village.
|Traditional Kokeshi shop.|
|Naoko was probably thinking "Our house is starting to look like this...."|
|A bunch of Togattas.|
|I found this one in the corner of the shop. This is a perfect kokeshi face.|
|The pedestrian kokeshi bridge. Can you see why it's an official kokeshi bridge?|
|Because of these little guys, which line the entire bridge.|
|Togatta's main street's convenience store. That is a giant Tengu 天狗 mask up there.|
|A souvenir shop. If you look closely there's a sign that says "Traditional Kokeshis."|
|Zao Kokeshi Doll Museum... Yes! I'll blog about that soon.|
|The town's mascot character. What else but a happy kokeshi soaking in an onsen.|
|The street to Mt. Zao. The two-story gray building on the left was a closed kokeshi shop.|
|These kokeshi-shaped signs were all over the town. More evidence of Togatta's kokeshi-based identity.|