The legend began in the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture – Japan, in 807, a monk named Tokuichi supervised the construction of Enzo-ji Temple, a temple in Yanaizu. After completing this temple, a red cow used to convert wood refused to leave the temple, its flesh turned to stone and became Akabeko – a symbol of his full dedication to Buddha. Some legends say that the cow instead refused to leave the yard after the temple was built and became a permanent fixture there.
Later Lord Gamo Ujisato, when he heard about the tradition of the red cow Akabeko, ordered the craftsmen to make a toy in the image of the red cow, and from then on the Japanese knew Akabeko as a lucky item, and is characteristic of the Aizu region. From Aizu area, Akabeko is known throughout Japan and the Japanese believe that Akabeko will help children avoid illness and bring good luck.
How is the red Akabeko cow made?
If you are holding an Akabeko cow you will find its weight quite light because it is made from papier-mache, a mixture of plaster and pulp. Artisans first make their own wooden head and body frame, then paste the layers of paper around the frame and let it dry.
After the paper dries, they harden and they separate the wooden mold and continue to attach other layers of paper to cover the sample until the desired thickness is reached. Then the artisans will bring the head and the cow’s body dry to dry until the paper hardens and when held we will feel like touching the plaster surface but the weight is lighter than plaster.
The final stage is decoration, the artisans will draw the motifs on the cow in red, black and white paint, usually red will be the last fill color and after the painting is completed, the Akabeko cow will be scanned An outside layer of gloss paint to keep the paint color more beautiful. Finally, they attach their heads and trunks to complete an Akabeko product.
Akabeko is not manufactured by industry, it is made by hand, it is estimated that it takes 10 days to complete a complete Akabeko red cow.The artisan takes 10 days and today most of the artisans do not make Akabeko to make toys but mainly made for display in shops or in private homes.
Today the Akabeko red bulls sold for display are often attached with a number of decorative objects with different meanings such as rattles, wooden hammers, evil eyes or a piece of mats, lucky charms, wooden cards … If You want to buy a red cow you can find online or order at Japanese handcarry stores.