It seems that Japanese people never tire of cute plush toys of all sorts, especially when it comes to animals and creatures, both real and fictional. With their amazing number, it comes as no surprise that Pokemon plushies come in many shapes and sizes, from Snorlaxes and Meowths to Laprases and Pikachus. As for real animals, we've seen unusual entries such as whale sharks and flapjack octopodes.

With so many adorable plushies to buy in Japan, you could be forgiven for already having a room full of them and not wanting any more. However, this year, you might want to open up your heart for a very special plushie from Fukushima Prefecture, which suffered the brunt of the terrible Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Meet Ogabeko.

Made by Fukushima Prefecture-based Iwaki Takahashi Co., Ltd., who use Japanese cedar and paulownia to make fine chopsticks, pencils, and recently, therapeutic pillows, she's a gentle, red cow plushie stuffed with shavings of the Japanese cedar (cryptomeria japonica), or sugi tree, the essential oils of which have been shown to increase levels of the adrenal cortex steroid DHEA-s, thereby reducing stress and promoting a greater sense of well-being.

The name Ogabeko is a play on words combining ogakuzu 大鋸屑, meaning sawdust, and Akabeko, a legendary cow from the Aizu region of Japan, who inspired a traditional toy made of painted and lacquered papier-mâché, and now one of Fukushima Prefecture's most famous crafts. According to legend, Akabeko was a cow whose refusal to leave the construction site of a temple in Fukushima turned it into a symbol for zealous devotion to the Buddha. Many years later, rumor spread during a smallpox outbreak in Japan that those who owned the toy were spared from the disease. Its association with good health and fortune, combined with its humorous appearance and bobbing head (a string mechanism holds the head suspended to the body, making it bob up and down at the slightest movement) has made Akabeko a fixture in many Japanese homes and a favorite for children.

Inspired by the toy and the legend, Iwaki Takahashi Co., Ltd. has created this adorable plush toy with the hope that it will comfort children and help them to sleep well. Of course, it is just as appropriate as a gift for anyone who could benefit from its relaxing properties. In addition, you'll surely sleep well knowing that your purchase is supporting a company working towards the reconstruction and revitalization of the Tohoku Area.

Environmentally Sound

According to their press release, Iwaki Takahashi only uses environmentally sound Japanese cedar timber from forest thinning to manufacture its chopsticks, and the shavings contained in their Ogabeko toy is exclusively made from this timber. Adjusting the number of trees in a forest and felling trees appropriately is extremely important for water source cultivation and environmental protection. Moreover, all sawdust not used in the factory is donated to neighboring cattle farmers who use it in lieu of straw mulching. In other words, no waste is produced.

Good for your health, good for the region and good for the environment. Ogabeko is a great gift from all points of view.


  • Name: Ogabeko おがべこ
  • Price: 3,240 JPY (inc. tax)
  • Materials: (Filling) Japanese cedar timber from forest thinning, (Outside) Polyester felt
  • Weight: 200g
  • Size: W 8.5 cm (3.3 in) X D 9 cm (3.5 in) X H 16.5 cm (6.5 in)
  • On sale at Iwaki Takahashi's online shop from March 11th, 2018. If you live outside of Japan, you can have it delivered through a third party forwarding service.)

By - grape Japan editorial staff.