Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Michinoku Kokeshi Festival みちのくこけし祭

Last weekend we drove up to Yamagata City for the 33rd annual Michinoku Kokeshi Festival and had a great adventure. I'll write about various aspects of that trip over the next few blog entries, starting with the drive up north on 4 October.
By the time we entered Fukushima Prefecture the traffic had thinned.
We pulled the girls out of school at around 11 AM and headed north on the Tohoku Expressway which was surprisingly congested leaving the Tokyo area. I'm used to driving on weekends, or very early in the morning, so this was a new experience. The crowds gradually dissipated and pretty soon we were leaving the Kanto Plain and entering Fukushima Prefecture, gateway into Tohoku and Kokeshi-land. Of course parts of Fukushima are an irradiated environment, some places worse than others, and so we could not really spend any time there.
Nevertheless, we needed a bathroom break right just as we entered the heart of the prefecture, and so I looked for an appropriate place to stop.
The Adatara Rest Area building.

West of the Dai'ichi Power Plant we ended up stopping at the Adatara 安達太良 Rest Area. I asked one of the ladies working there about radiation and she said yes, the area in the vicinity of the rest area was reading a certain amount of milli-sieverts. So sad. However, on a happier note were signs of kokeshis in the gift area. First, I discovered some packs of Onsen Eggs from Tsuchiyu Onsen, home of the Tsuchiyu kokeshi. As you'll see in the photos its mascot is the smiley kokeshi I discussed in the previous blog. That was a nice surprise.

As I wandered around the shop I eventually came across a display case containing a couple of wooden horses, along with two Tsuchiyu kokeshis. Hooray! We were definitely in a kokeshi-making area.
And thus started a new kokeshi adventure that would eventually take Naoko, the girls and me to Sakunami Onsen, the Kamei Museum in Sendai, and the Michinoku Kokeshi Festival in Yamagata. Next blog: Sakunami Onsen!

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