Have you ever seen these dolls during your travels in Japan? I’m sure that you have come across these faceless dolls at some point.
These are sarubobo dolls. Sarubobo dolls are faceless human like figures that are mainly red but come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes.
These faceless dolls are the mascots for the Hida region of Japan. The Hida region includes the Northern part of Gifu which is infamous for their quiet mountains and natural hot springs. These dolls can be seen all over: at every shop, or sometimes outside restaurants especially in the Takayama region.
The word “Saru” literally means “monkey” and “bobo” is what people in the region of Takayama call a “baby”. Sarubobo literally means a monkey baby. Traditionally these dolls were made as a charm and given as good fortune to someone very important to you. Many grandmothers would make these dolls and give them to their grandchildren as an omen to bring good fortune in life.
“SARU” could also mean to leave, which will help protect the owner from bad things.
Another belief is that the sarubobo will bring you a happy home and help you to find a good match. These dolls is also believed to help women with an easy childbirth. It is common for Monkeys to have an easy delivery so this is the hope of many women. Traditionally sarubobo are red to symbolize the connection to monkey’s, as the face of baby monkeys is usually red.
Though sarubobo are traditionally red, nowadays they come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. Each color now has a different meaning and is advertised as the souvenir for someone important or someone that you care about, making it suitable for men and women.
Red = Marriage and family. It brings good marriage, easy birth and good growth of children.
Gold = Money and success. It helps cultivate talent and skill. It increases economic fortune and protects against bad luck.
Yellow = Money and gambling. It brings luck in gambling, lotteries, and financial success.
Pink = Love. It is believed to help you meet someone. But if you already have someone or are married it will help your relationship to go well.
Blue = Study or Job. It is said to bring a sense of calmness to improve concentration.
Green = Peace and Health. This one promotes good health and prevents sickness.
Purple = Longevity and Success. It brings success in all aspects of life, and a healthy, long life.
Black = Protection from evil. This guards against evil of any sort.
Sarubobo dolls are great gifts for anyone and represent a traditional part of the culture in the Hida region. Not only are they easy to find in the Hida area, but they also come in all different shapes and sizes, but they are also believed to bring good fortune. Even if you aren’t a fan of the dolls themselves, there are many sarubobo snacks and cakes to enjoy from this area.