Throughout any journey across Japan, many visitors will likely come across the Daruma doll. Typically small and red, they are oval shaped dolls sporting a wide-eyed look of surprise. There are many variations of Daruma and one will also find that different regions have applied their own unique look and feel to the doll. Of course artistic interpretations and commercialisation have also played a major role in the way we many of us see the Daruma doll today. Like so many facets of Japanese culture, there is a rich history and tradition behind this amusing looking figurine.
Daruma is actually modelled after the monk Bodhidharma, widely considered the founder of Zen Buddhism. With the religion being such an integral part of Japanese life, he naturally became a symbol of good luck and prosperity throughout the nation. And just like pop stars who are idolized by the masses, he eventually got his own action figurine!
Despite the small differences that Daruma might exhibit from place to place, there are some important commonalities:
Always oval shaped and weighted heavily at the bottom. This is to allow the doll always to return to an upright position whenever tilted or pushed over. Symbolically this has come to mean success and the ability to recover from failures.
Those BIG white eyes! Paint one to give him a vision of a goal that you want to achieve. Paint the other to give him full sight once the goal has been realized.
It is common for people to buy Daruma dolls as good luck charms for the new year or for big upcoming events. But did you know you can also make your own ? Mihara is a small town in Hiroshima Prefecture where they have a specialist Daruma Workshop. If you can spare the time to attend 3 sessions, you can make your own Daruma just the way you like it – my one got a huge smile and funky bandanna! The local tourism office at Mihara Station will point you in the right direction, and it’s just a few minutes walk away from there. You can also find more information at their website:
For just ¥500, that’s an absolute bargain to fast track the realization of your goals!