The Hachinohe area of Japan has been known since the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333) for its breed of battle horses. Horses have played an important role in lives of those living in this area; thus, the art of Yawata-uma figurines, or carved and painted wooden horses become a regional art form.
The horses are consider one of the oldest and most recognizable toys in Japan. They are also known as Yawata Uma, which comes from their relationship with the activities at Hachiman shrines.
Traditionally the craftsman used only a hatchet and chisel to carve the wooden horses, then painstakingly painted them. The horses are still handcrafted and hand painted in a small factory in Hachinohe, Japan, which is close to Misawa.
Hachinohe horses come in many sizes, from less than an inch high to over a foot tall, although some larger statues are also made. The horses are sold singly or in pairs and usually painted black or red, with black denoting the male and red, the female. I have the three horses pictured above (the largest is about 8 inches tall) and two tiny ones that I put on my Christmas tree.
The unpainted horse was given to me by the small cast of the one-act play, Schubert's Last Serenade, which was presented at the Pacific Region Drama Festival.
The cast members signed on the sides, the bottom, and even the back of the horse.
Hachinohe horses will always remind me of my years in Misawa.