Collectors’ trip ~Folk Toy~
Hi, I’m Yumika from SUNCHI editorial desk.
It’s a good way to choose a destination from the places or things talked- about in travel guide or SNS. But I think it would be nice to pick up a destination by listing up favorites of your own. If you make a trip plan from that, you might be able to come across a new favorite or experience what you’ve truly wanted.
On this “Collectors’ trip”, we introduce charming collectors who take trips looking for encounters with something nice. This time, it’s a folk toy. I visited a collector’s home and had an interview over their collection.
“Folk Toy” is defined as a toy rooted in its culture, which has been made in each region of Japan for long time. Daruma Doll, curved bear, Kokeshi Doll are some of them. The culture and climate of its region is deeply reflected on them.
The same “Uso” but seems different in face and shape.
“Uso”, a wooden doll is available at the shrines which worship Michizane Sugawara as Tenjin Deity. It’s used for the sacred ritual “Uso Kae” which held at the shrines throughout Japan such as Dazaifu Tenmangu in Fukuoka Prefecture. Uso doll is a folk toy named after a bird Uso. The name “Uso” has the other meaning, a lie. People wish for their misfortune turned into a lie and another fortune coming at the ritual.
“It was my first Uso that I got at a January fair near my home.” As she looked into Uso, she realized that there were various Uso. “In Japan, there are many kinds of Uso. While Uso at Dazaifu Tenmangu has curly hair, which is standard, there are Uso with straight hair or in different shapes. The look and the shape depend on a region. Sometimes I see very unusual one and I cry, “Can this be Uso?” She told us a story of “Uso trip” in front of the shelf just for Uso.
Rare folk toy rather than a nice hotel room
She told us about a four day trip for Uso to Kyushu District. “First of all, we locate the places where Uso are and mark them on the map and then make a plan for a route.” She showed us a memo which was closely written with names of shrines and workshops on it. They seem make detailed plan, but they don’t for the rest part of the trip. “What we decide in advance is only workshop to visit and restaurant which serves special local food. Usually we don’t reserve a hotel because if we book a hotel first, a plan for a day should be limited.” She told us an accident that they once ended up traveling all through the night as they couldn’t find a hotel. Even a trouble sounded fun of their travel.
Before it’s extinguished
Folk toy isn’t highly productive because it’s being made manually one by one. And unfortunately, not a few folk toys have been extinguished due to aging of craftspeople and lack of successor in recent years.
“We used to visit closer places on weekends in the beginning. We thought we could buy Uso at a distance when we travel later. But it realized “later” won’t come. The shop what we wanted to visit shut down and craftspeople retired one by one. As we heard from them, we couldn’t help doing something. “We must go before it’s extinguished.” They became to put folk toy thing first for their trip, instead of trying to find it in their spare time. They said they were flared up as collectors.
“What on earth you’ve come all the way here for? “They would say with smiling.
“When we visit a local workshop or shrine, we usually make a call and tell them the date and time of our visit. It’s no need to make a reservation but folk toys can be stored in a closed workshop or craftspeople’s home in some cases.” “Sometimes workshop turns out to be their residence or the workshop entrance is inaccessible. It’s hard to find them.”
“They would be pleased at our visit while saying “what on earth you’ve come all the way here for?”, the two said. They would show us old works stored in their storage or give us sample. Sometimes they suggest us to put color on their work, thus our stay ended up longer than expected.”, laughed. Unexpected long stay might be expected for the two.
Changed by season, or along with origin
Folk toys brought back from their trips are decorated not only in the shelf but everywhere in their home. What we found in their kitchen was a lucky charm “Otsu-no-combo”. It’s a folk toy from Kagoshima Prefecture which is known as protective deity for kitchen. On a day in October when we had an interview, “Funato Hariko” welcomed us at the entrance. The toy from Saitama Prefecture had a pumpkin form and a tiny mouse of funny face popping out from it. They put it as Halloween was coming. “Toy we decorate depends on a motif and material. We coordinate toys beside the featured one. In that way we enjoy them every day.” Life with souvenirs looked nice as if the fun of trip was ever lasting.
Like ever lasting treasure hunting
There are many unreachable things unless we go off to the place even in this convenient life. As crafts are made manually, they cannot be mass produced and often they will not be distributed nationwide. They said folk toy was heavily tinged with its culture and that made them so interesting. Several craftspeople are trying to keep their business while looking forward to our next visit. “A craftsperson who was going to quit when we first visited him tells us now about his work every time he makes a new one.” Collectors’ trip could lead to the succession of culture where they visit. “There are plenty of toys what I want, but they’re so hard to be found. It’s like an ever lasting treasure hunting.” Their trip for unknown folk toy continues.Collector : Folk toy
Mr. & Mrs. Yajima, live in Osaka. “We want a shelf that folk toy looks becoming.” That was their request upon planning for their house. Folk toys were displayed on the shelf cheerfully with sunlight on, looking green forest through a window glass ahead. Writer: Yumika Nishikido
Photographer: Masashi Kimura