I was working on photobooks today of Okinawa. The last one I made was of all our pictures of those cut outs where you stick you head in. I needed the appropriate name, so after some research and a Facebook discussion, we found they are called Kaohame 顔ハメ in Japanese. Kaohame translates to “to insert face”. Kaodashi Kanban 顔出し看板 is another term used, which roughly translates to “stick your face out”.
Driving around Okinawa, you’ll start to see these. They are usually found at popular places, festivals, and other random places like restaurants. They quickly became a hit in our house. Anytime we saw one, we would stop to take pictures. I have a lot of pictures, but I know there are some we missed. I have seen everything from beer mugs to goya to carrots to ice cream to odd animals to eisa dancers.
It’s not known when they were introduced to Japan from America, but they became popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. This was also the height of the postwar travel boom. Commemorative photos were the way to go and what better way to provide a fun photo op. A lot of the older kaohame were hand painted and subsidized by film companies. The companies had arrangements with gift shops that sold film near tourist attractions. The shop arranged for the panel, the film company paid for it, and both parties came out ahead.