People from all across Japan gather at Naruko Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture to celebrate the craftsmanship of Kokeshi dolls, a traditional Japanese wooden doll that has no arms or legs.
This event has been held since 1948, and this year the town will host its 68th National Kokeshi Festival. The event usually takes place during the first weekend of September, with there also being a special ceremony held on Friday evening.
Sep. 1 (Fri.)
On the evening before the Kokeshi Festival starts, there is a memorial service held at the Naruko Onsen Shrine. You will see broken or damaged Kokeshi dolls (all sent from different areas across the country) being thrown into a soaring fire as a way to show gratitude and pray for the future development of this industry.
Sep. 2 (Sat.)
The festival officially begins with a Kokeshi Dedication Ceremony which is held at the Naruko Onsen Shrine. Kokeshi dolls, donated from different areas, are displayed together so that individuals can pray for the success of the festival.
Throughout the morning, many people will also make their way to the gymnasium of Naruko Elementary School and patiently wait in line for a chance to buy their own unique Kokeshi doll. One of the main highlights of the day is a live demonstration of how the Kokeshi dolls are made.
You can also admire the beauty of traditional Japanese craftsmanship at the Naruko lacquerware and Edo downtown craftsman exhibitions.
On the evening of September 2, there will be a parade where you can see the local people dressed up as Kokeshi dolls and a portable shrine parade. Make sure to stay and watch the Naruko Odori performed by the Local Women’s Association, who will be wearing unique Kokeshi-inspired yukatas.
Sep. 3 (Sun.)
Events on Sunday will be the same as Saturday, minus the parade.
How to get there
If you are planning to take the train, jump on the JR Rikuu East Line (Oku no Hosomichi Yukemuri Line) and get off at Naruko Onsen Station. By car, it takes 40 minutes from Tohoku Expressway Furukawa IC or 45 minutes from JR Furukawa Station.
If you decide to make the journey from Tokyo to Miyagi Prefecture, you can take the Shinkansen to Furukawa Station, which takes over two hours and then hop on the local Rikuuto Line to Naruko Onsen Station.Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.