Aomori: Bring in new year with a roar

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A set of tiger kokeshi wooden dolls is seen with artisan Masafumi Abo carving more in the background at the Tsugaru Kokeshi Kan museum in Kuroishi, Aomori Prefecture, in December.

KUROISHI, Aomori — Artisan Masafumi Abo works day after day to carve kokeshi wooden dolls of this year’s Zodiac sign, the tiger.

“I really hope this can be a good year in which we can beat the coronavirus pandemic,” said Abo, 38, who makes Tsugaru kei kokeshi at the Tsugaru Kokeshi Kan museum in Kuroishi, Aomori Prefecture.

“Usually, I try to make the kokeshi look cute, but this year I wanted to make ones that look fierce,” Abo said.

The kokeshi set features a parent and cub baring their fangs, and they seem to project a hint of humor and cuteness alongside strength.

The tiger kokeshi set is so popular that orders made in early January cannot be sent to customers until possibly February, a museum employee said.

Each set costs ¥3,300 (including tax) and can be ordered from the museum’s website.