| Photo Diary | Valley of the Dolls

In April 1983 NHK aired a 15 minute drama each morning whose story would unfold over the course of a year. The drama was called ‘Oshin’ and it told the tale of one girl’s journey into womanhood. She would face trials, tribulations as well as happier times . Swathes of people tuned in each morning for the 15 minute segment of the past-time bittersweetness. Japan laughed and ached along with Oshin. When the drama concluded a year later, the tale was imported to about 70 other countries around the world. Oshin’s story spoke to the hearts of so many globally and such was its effect that even today, people will exuberantly exclaim “OSHIN” in our direction when they learn that we are Japanese.

Part of the drama was filmed on location in Ginzan Onsen that we visited HERE. A place steeped in Taisho-era nostalgia it also is home to a rather special type of Kokeshi doll. The ‘Oshin Kokeshi’ who is very much the mascot of the drama and the location. It manages to  encapsulates the feelings that resonated with the show.




Perched right up against the river’s bend is a kokeshi workshop. A thousand painted eyes gazed nonchalantly at us when we stepped inside. Today the shop is run by the third generation doll-maker from the Izu family.

Ginzan Onsen is a place that has really stayed with us. It’s like a little time loop hidden within the mountains of Yamagata province. The architecture tells of a time when western influence infiltrated old Japan and begun to make its mark. The Taisho-era, short thought it was,  must have been a fascinating time. I can only imagine what it must have felt like to wear a western style dress, cut one’s hair into a fashionable bob let alone wear a pair of leather shoes for the first time. Looking back at the style books of the time, even the kimono showed stark changes from tradition as new styles emerged. Ginzan Onsen seems to have remnants of these feelings lingering in the air and the waters that rush through its heart.

SEE MORE | See more of our adventures in Japan HERE |