Obake no Kinta or Kinta the Ghost is a folk toy that originated in Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture.
The toy consists of a head with a string in the back of it. When the string is pulled, Kinta rolls his big round eyeballs and sticks out his tongue. A bamboo spring is concealed in his head which, when pulled, triggers the eyes and the tongue to move at the same time. Kinta with his red face and a black conical hat makes a striking impression on small children and he often scares them a little. He is a popular toy among adults, however. The most important process in making this toy is the making of the bamboo spring. The quality of this spring determines the quality of the toy.
When Kato Kiyomasa built the Kumamoto Castle, there was a popular foot soldier named Kinta who had a funny face and who was good at making people laugh. He was affectionately called “Clown Kinta”. The Kinta the Ghost toy was said to have been created during the Kanei era (1848 ~ 1853) by a doll maker, Hikoshichi Nishijinya, who started making mechanical toys based on stories about Kinta. Because of his unique action, Kinta the Ghost was also known as the Goggle-eyed Doll.
Climbing Monkey is a folk toy that has been handed down for years in the Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture. The toy is put up on a bamboo pole along with Koinobori or carp shaped streamers on “Boy’s Day” – May 5th to pray for the children’s good health and prosperity in the future. When the wind blows, the monkey starts climbing up the pole.
The making of the Climbing Monkey toy is said to have started around 200 years ago as a homemade craft by the samurai wives of the Nobeoka Naitou Clan. There are some popular myths as to why a climbing monkey first appeared. One story says that it was created to admonish Sarutahiko, a Monkey God during the mythical age, who acted violently and ran amuck. Another story is that, before he was victorious in battle, the head of the Arima Clan, a previous occupant of the region prior to the Nobeoka Clan, had a monkey drawn on the war banner that he carried on his back.
The toy is made by first creating a monkey shaped wooden mold. The mold is wrapped with many layers of Japanese paper and then, the back of it is cut to remove the mold. The remaining paper is then stitched up before it is colored. The monkey wears the golden-striped eboshi headgear worn by court nobles and it carries a kozutsumi drum and a gohei (a wand with paper streamers) on its back. His appearance resembles a dancer who performs the celebratory dance before a Kabuki performance. The monkey is then suspended from a banner on which iris flowers are drawn. Although it is not a modern creation, Climbing Money continues to delight children into the 21st Century.
Hisamine Uzura Guruma or Hisamine Quail Toy Car is a traditional folk toy whose history has been passed down for years in Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture.
Since Edo era, quail has been a familiar bird in Miyazaki region and local people adore them. It was a local practice to keep the birds to enjoy their calling.
Quail in Japan breed in Hokkaido and northeastern Japan from Spring to Summer, then migrate to warmer areas of Shikoku and Kyushu from Fall to Winter.
Uzura Gurum is a children’s toy based on the quail. Japanese Angelica tree is used for the body and bamboo is used to make the axle of the wheels. On its side is a word, “の”, to pray for children’s safety and happiness.
In old days, the quail toy car was sold at religious festivals in Hisamine Kannon and Kishibo Shrine. They are still loved by the locals and can be seen being displayed by the front entrance of each household.
There are two kinds of quail toy cars in Miyazaki City; One in Hokkedake Yakushi-ji Temple and the other one in Hisamine Kannon. Hisamine quail toy car has a more feminine look.
Hariko, or Haribote, is a paper-mache made by gluing layers of washi paper. Hariko was introduced to Japan from China in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and Hariko dolls and toys began to be made in castle towns all over the nation in the Edo period (1603-1867), when there was plenty of used washi paper. Hariko making in Himeji started in the early Meiji period, when Tadashichi Toyooka mastered the skills. At the present time, the craft was handed down to his fourth generation descendant, Takashi Matsuo, and his son, who has preserved this traditional handicraft. Himeji Hariko is loved as a bringer of good luck in such occasions as house-framework-raising ceremonies, or local events and festivals. The bright colored Hariko masks and toys are also loved by fanciers of folk toys as room ornaments.
Quail toy cars known as uzura-guruma are a charactersitic wooden toy made in Fukushima Prefecture.
A quail is a small bird that stands about 20cm tall, has a small head, a round body and a short tail. The black and white speckled pattern on its brown body is its characteristic feature.
A Korean who had immigrated to Iwashiro county in Fukushima Prefecture, founded a temple to commemorate a 100th anniversary. At that time, he developed the quail toy car from spare chunks of wood from a hand axe.
Quail toy cars are also made in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, and the origin is quite similar; they are also said to have been made by a person from Korea.
Car toys such as these are popular in western Japan in places like Miyazaki, but are rarely seen in eastern Japan. Fukushima has so many kinds of toys as you can see from the fact that it has the quail toy car, although it is in the Tohoku region.
Dating to the Edo period, the quail toy car is a simple toy that has a great sense of fun.
Oyama top is a traditional toy made in the mountain area of Oyama, Isehara City, Kanagawa Pref. Mt. Oyama has been worshipped by the local people since ancient days. In the middle of Edo period, when the religious faith in Mt. Oyama was at its peak, turners in this area began to make tops as a souvenir for the people who visited to worship Mt. Oyama, using abundant timbers and their traditional skills in turnery. In Japan, a spinning top is associated with everything going round well, so a top is considered to be a lucky item to bring well-being of a family, success in business, and bumper crops. This simple and massive top with a history of 300 years is one of a few excellent examples of the toy that are still made with traditional skills. Its folkloric colored stripe patterns in harmony with the texture of wood give very homely impression.
A Japanese word “omocha” meaning a toy originally means a thing to hold in a hand and play with. In the Heian period (794-1192), it was called “mote (or mochi)-asobimono (mote or mochi means to hold in a hand, and asobimono means something to play with),” or it was referred to as simply “asobimono” in the Tale of Genji. In the Edo period, the word “omochi-asobi” or “te-asobi (hand play)” came to be used. Although some of the figures or masks made of clay dug out of Jomon excavation sites are considered as toys, most of the Japanese toys were originally introduced from China. Take koma (a top) for example, this toy is called koma in Japanese because it was introduced into Japan in the Nara period (701-794) via Goguryeo (called Koma in Japanese). Mari (a Japanese ball) was directly introduced from China during the Tang Dynasty and later it developed into “temari” for girls. After coming from China or Korea, these toys were improved and developed into something unique to each locality. Each of the traditional toys still found in various places in the country has been deep rooted in the people’s lives and religious ceremonies.
Miharu-goma horse toys are part of a traditional wooden-toy craftmaking tradition in Miharu, Tamura district, Fukushima prefecture. Miharu-goma, along with Yawata-goma of Aomori prefecture and Kinoshita-goma of Miyagi prefecture, are known as the three best wooden horse toys of Japan.
Wooden horse toys were first made following a legend that a wooden horse had appeared to help the Heian shogun, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, in a close battle with Emishi.
These toy horses come in two basic body colors, white or black, while the whip, saddle and accessories are painted in red, black, gold and purple.
These toy horses express the love the Miharu people have for horses. Miharu has traditionally been a horse-breeding area.
The wooden horses consist of two basic carved pieces that fit perfectly together using joints and notches. Several accessories are added to show the dynamism of the horse. When the white and black horse are placed together they are extremely cute. There is a Miharu wooden horse decorating the finishing post of the Fukushima racecourse.