I looked forward to visiting the town of Naruko in Miyagi Prefecture. I had continued my kokeshi education and learned about their connection with onsens. Unlike many onsen resorts, Naruko can be easily accessed by rail.
When my daughter and I arrived in Naruko we knew we had reached the Land of Kokeshi. The train station had a nice collection displayed inside a glass case and there was a pair of train conductor kokeshi sitting in the station office. Then there was, um, that peculiar odor. Was it kokeshi? Of course not, it was the smell of sulphur wafting from the nearby footbaths. My daughter commented that it was "the rare smell in Japan that I don't like."
Outside we found Kokeshi Dori and browsed through a few shops before beginning our long walk. Further along the journey, as we passed through the spectacular landscape, we spotted a super-giant kokeshi.
It towered high above the parking lot of an interesting shop stocked with regional items along with the well-advertised kokeshi. The store owner lighted a heater and we huddled next to it. Alas, we eventually had to abandon our warm refuge and venture out into the cold. The skies had clouded over and a light rain was falling as we opened up umbrellas and trekked onward.
Finally we saw the sign: Japan Kokeshi Museum. Hallelujah, we were there! And yes, the place was full of kokeshi, old and new and yet to be completed. We looked at the exhibits (all the text is written in Japanese), watched an artisan create kokeshi heads in the workshop, saw visitors carefully painting their own kokeshi, and we shopped in the gift shop. We had a lovely time. If you are intrigued by kokeshi then this would certainly be a good place to visit.
By the time we finished our exploration of the museum the rain was steady and falling heavily. Fortunately we were able to share a ride with a few other visitors and split the fare - the museum personnel arranged this for us. They can call you a private taxi, too.
We returned to Naruko Station, and what's a tired and cold tourist to do but eat? Our morning ended pleasantly at a local cafe, where we each enjoyed a plate of curry and rice.
Read about a kokeshi shop in Sendai
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