Celebrating the birth of children, Akabeko are painted red to ward evil, and are marked with the Japanese family seals of ikeda (hash symbol) on the back, and tomoe (design with interlocked commas) on the belly. It was a custom in Aizu’s lower-ranking samurai class to send them to families with newborn children, expressing the wish that the child would grow up healthy and lively.
Akabekos were made by pasting washi (Japanese paper) onto a wooden cast; the cast was then removed, the back reinforced, and the first coat painted. It is dyed red and then decoratively painted, becoming a children’s toy whose head nods.
The head is made to nod in order to soothe children.
Cows in real life are brown, but in Aizu dialect, brown is aka (red), and cows are beko, so the toys are called Akabeko.