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Hariko Folk Toys Celebrate the Japanese New Year

Photo by Marissa James

In the Japanese Zodiac, 2019 celebrates the Year of the Boar.

To ensure good luck, Japanese traditionally purchase a small figure that represents the zodiac animal of the current year. Handmade of hariko (papier-mâché) and hand-painted, these animals vary in style across the regions of Japan and are known for their charming shapes, bright colors, and, often, their bobbing heads.

The hariko animals on display here come from the collection of Lynn Geis, a longtime volunteer guide and friend of Portland Japanese Garden. While living in Japan for a year Lynn fell in love with these figures and, ever since, has collected a few more every time she travels back to Japan. To date, this has brought her collection to over 170 hariko animals and dolls.

This year also commemorates the 60th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Portland and Sapporo, the capitol of Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido. In honor of this relationship which initiated the creation of the Portland Japanese Garden, we are celebrating the Year of Hokkaido in our exhibitions and events.