Say Hello to the Dosojin, Shinto-Buddhist gods of roads and borders, believed to ward off evil spirits and protect the village from harm.
These guys are the VIDs (Very Important Deities) of Nozawa Onsen, the hot spring and ski resort town in the northern part of Nagano prefecture I mentioned in my last post (more on our recent trip there later). When they are depicted in human form, as a man and a woman, as they are here, their guardianship extends to marriage and fertility and childbirth. (They also protect travelers -- a natural extension of the roads and borders thing).
Maybe because it was New Year's weekend or maybe they are always on display, but we saw loads of these doll-couples all over town, in shop windows, on doorsteps and street corners...
And here they are protecting the TogariNozawa-onsen train station.
(Photo taken on Jan. 3, 2011)