Plague-ending talismans made by a fifth-generation Kyoto doll craftsman. 

Ever since the Starbucks Roastery opened in Tokyo last year as the largest of its kind in the world — beaten in size shortly afterwards with the opening of the new Chicago Roastery — we’ve been loving their huge breads and limited-edition cherry blossom drinks.

Now there’s a reason to fall in love with the store all over again, thanks to a new collection of exclusive figurines being released this month, created by the fifth generation head of Kyoto doll-making studio Shimada Kouen.

▼ Shimada Kouen is located on the Ninen-zaka path that leads up to Kiyomizu Dera.

With a history that stretches back to 1859, Shimada Kouen has an esteemed reputation for crafting high-quality Gosho ningyo. Gosho ningyo are chubby, white, child-like dolls with small limbs, big heads and sweet features, first made over 400 years ago, when they were adored by members of the Imperial Court.

Nowadays, the dolls are believed to bring good luck, and for the Starbucks Roastery collaboration, they’ll be bringing good luck to the Year of the Ox with some auspicious features for health and happiness. There are seven pieces in the new collection, with three on the pricier end packaged in wooden boxes, and four more reasonable offerings sold in classy black cardboard boxes.

The first design is Mitsufuku, which means “three fortunes“. Priced at 60,000 yen (US$576.67), this set consists of three dolls lined up on a paulownia pedestal, and includes a hat-wearing doll, said to protect people from illness and injury, and Gozu Tenno, the “ox-head-heaven-king”, with a golden ox on its head, as a symbol of hope for the end of a plague. The doll on the right wears an apron with the character “good fortune” to bring happiness to you and your family.

The next set is the Six Gourd Good Health (70,000 yen), which features a traditional chubby Gosho doll holding a gourd. Due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic in 2020, people have become more strongly aware of their heath, and because “six gourds” can be read as “mubyou” (“sound health“) in Japanese, this scene invites a healthy life for everyone.

Next up is the Maneki Neko (30,000 yen), which means “Beckoning Cat”. Cat figures like these, with the left paw raised, are believed to beckon people, making them particularly valuable for business owners wanting to invite customers to their premises.  

At a much more affordable price point, we have the Ox Clay Bell for 4,000 yen. Since ancient times, clay bells have been made as amulets and lucky charms, and the black ox is said to be the messenger of the heavenly deity Tenjin and a symbol of happiness. The hemp cord handle has symbolised purification since ancient times, making this an item that wishes for happiness and home safety.

The Gourd Holding Sanbyoshi (3,500 yen) features a small Gosho doll with three gourds. Since ancient times, gourds, which hold water and medicine, have been considered auspicious because they protect people’s health. The “sanbyoshi” here refers to the three-beat time signature used by musical instruments in sacred Shinto ceremonies, and the three gourds represent this special rhythm.

The Ox Figurine (3,000 yen) comes in lucky red and white varieties, which are displayed in the hopes of having a happy year. The white ox is regarded as a symbol of wealth, to bring an abundance of good fortune to the family.

Red is said to be a colour that dispels demons, making the red ox a wish for good health and the end of the pandemic.

The entire range will be available exclusively at the Starbucks Roastery Tokyo from 14 December. On release day, only one item per person can be purchased, but from the next day onwards, sales of up to 10 items per item per person will be permitted.

So if you’re after a Japan-exclusive Starbucks item that combines tradition and good luck, you’ll want to get in early, as the products on the lower end of the price scale are likely to sell out, much like the limited-edition goods in this year’s regular Starbucks Christmas collection.

Source, images: Starbucks Japan
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