The Story Behind the Daruma Dolls

Daruma Shrine

Akiba-chan and Akiba-kei must ever heard of a traditional game played by some people, in which in the game one of the players says “Daruma-san ga korondaaa ..! Daruma-saannn gaaaaa .. koro … nda!” (Daruma-san is coming!!).  Yup, this is a traditional game in Japan called “Daruma-san”. However akiba-chan and akiba-kun, do you know some facts about Daruma dolls??

This is a video of traditional game “Daruma-san”.

Daruma san is a traditional doll colored in red with a round shape, and have no legs nor hands. Daruma doll can be purchased at any time, but most of the tourists and visitors buy it at the beginning of the year at this Takasaki City.

Daruma Festival - Daruma Market
Daruma Festival – Daruma Market

The tradition of daruma dolls considered as a lucky charm objects came from the shrine Shorinzan Darumaji (少林山達磨 寺) since hundreds year ago. This daruma shrine was built by a Japanese priest Shinetsu in 1697 and is located in the city of Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. The doll came from the story of Bodhidarma who had a sacred meditation for 9 years. The story told that because of the very long time period of Bodhidarma penance, his feet and hands become dysfunctional and be separated from his body. Therefore daruma dolls have no hands nor feet. The red color of daruma doll also comes from the color of the clothes worn at the time he did the meditation.

Daruma Temple

Daruma Shrine
Daruma Shrine

On 6 and 7 January every year in the city of Takasaki Gunma Prefecture, there is a Daruma Festival in which Daruma dolls from various sizes and different models are sold to tourists and local residents. Until now this festival became the main income of Takasaki citizen. Daruma doll which is regarded as a lucky charm is sold without both eyes being drawn. If a person would like his/her hope to come true, then that person must draw one eye, and will continue to draw the other eye after his/her hope been fulfilled.

Newly purchased daruma doll
Newly purchased daruma doll

 

Daruma wishing a hope, but haven't granted
Daruma wishing a hope, but hasn’t been granted

Having fulfilled the hope, Daruma which both of his eyes has completely drawn is recommended to be returned in the Temple and be burned.

Daruma to be burned
Daruma to be burned
Daruma burned
Daruma burned

Another essence in daruma dolls besides lucky charm and hope is the strength to keep going. This is because inside the daruma dolls, there is a heavy round object that serves as a balancer. If daruma doll dropped, it will be able to stand back by itself. And the people of Japan believed that the daruma dolls have the essence of “When you fell you should bounce back” or “Never Surrender”, “Gambatte ne!!” 😀