[Asahikawa's Kuma Bokko]
"Kuma Bokko" is a folk craft produced at Tomiya Kyodo Mingei, a souvenir store in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. Asahikawa is one of the most popular cities in Hokkaido for woodworking, and there are many wonderful woodcrafts in the souvenir shop. Since I welcomed him into my home, he has been sitting on the table or a shelf, a great source of comfort for me every day.
Kuma Bokko was born in 1956. It was originally slimmer and longer than it is now, and was named after the word "bokko," which means "stick" in the dialect of Hokkaido and the Tohoku region. The material used was Hokkaido's Ezo spruce and Abies sachalinensis, which were gradually shaped from square timbers using electric saws, burnt to accentuate the annual ring pattern, and delicately polished using sandpaper. The process is said to be extremely delicate and time-consuming. Because of the extremely delicate work involved, it is very rare to have a beautifully finished face and body, and it is not uncommon for a bokko to be born with various injuries, some minor, some serious.
The annual ring pattern on the body of the Kuma Bokko is very distinctive. The rings are different depending on the type of wood used, and even if the same piece of wood is used, the rings will appear differently depending on the part of the tree from which it was quarried. There are also differences in the angles of the face and body, and variations in the overall coloring depending on the degree of firing. The craftsman who paints the eyes, nose, and other parts of each piece is said to look at the shape and color of the rings on the finished piece to create a unique facial expression, so that even if the same parts are painted, the finished Kuma Bokko will have a slightly different expression depending on their subtle positioning. It was difficult to choose the best one, and I spent a lot of time selecting my favorite one.
I picked up the Kuma Bokkos simply because they were so adorable, but when I learned about the time and effort that went into creating each one, and how much love was put into them, they became even more adorable. If you have not had a chance to visit Asahikawa, but are curious about Kuma Bokko, you should definitely come to Tomiya! If you have a chance to visit Asahikawa but are curious about Kuma Bokko, please visit the Tomiya Kyodo Mingei website. It is very interesting to read about this and that about Kuma Bokko, and you can feel their love for Kuma Bokko very clearly.
Tomiya Kyodo Mingei