2019 Jan 25, Chinkoro and Mukonage


Posted: 25 January 2019
Author: Amanda Marble


Winter is in full force in Tokamachi. About two meters of snow have fallen around Tokamachi (more in the mountains) and the winter festivities have started! The area is most known for the Snow Festival in February, but we have some events in January that I attended that were really fun.

Chinkoroichi, or the Chinkoro Market, occurs every January on the 10th, 15th, 20th, and 25th in downtown Tokamachi City. The markets are full of goods representing Tokamachi’s history, like straw-woven bowls, hats, and other accessories. You can also buy yummy things such as taiyaki (a fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean or custard), takoyaki, breads, jam ― all sorts of things. I even saw a Korean food stall!
But the main items being sold here are little figurines sculpted out of rice flour. Called chinkoro, these cute little figurines are entirely handmade so each one is one-of-a-kind. Chinkoro are considered good luck charms, and they are meant to be displayed in your home. The idea is that they will absorb all of your bad luck and when they are done they begin to crack and eventually break into pieces. The most common shapes are dogs, cats, bunnies, and whatever the Chinese zodiac indicates. For example, this is the year of the boar, so there were a lot of little wild boars being sold!
Below are some photos from the market, and the cute little cat I got when I went on January 15th.



Another event that happens January 15th is Mukonage to Suminuri, or Groom Throwing and Ash Smearing. For mukonage, newlywed grooms are thrown off of the mountain near Yakushido Shrine in Matsunoyama after being carried up the road. It was originally said to be a sort of “teaching lesson” moment to the man for marrying a family’s daughter (like “this is what you get for taking our daughter!”) but now it is done for marriage prosperity. There were three grooms this year and watching them being flung into the snow was wild. My fellow CIR Sven will be getting married this year, so Adam (my other fellow CIR) and I want him to sign up for the next one in 2020!



After all grooms are thrown, a bonfire is lit nearby and the ashes from the fire are mixed with the snow on the ground and smeared on participants’ faces for suminuri to promote good health for the year. I wasn’t super sure about this at first, considering I had to go back to the office, but after a coworker got my eyebrows I did a complete 180 and wanted to get in on the fun! Everybody runs around with blackened hands and more or less attacks your face, shouting “omedetou!” or “congratulations!” It was a blast and I hadn’t laughed so hard in a while. And luckily for us, the nearby Matsunoyama Onsen Nasteview was letting participants with smeared faces use their onsen sinks free of charge, so I was able to make it back to work with a clean face and amazing memories. I can’t wait for next year!!

Tokamachi City Hall
General Affairs Department
Policy Planning Division
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3-3 Chitose-cho, Tokamachi City,
Niigata, JAPAN 〒948-4635

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