Daruma, the super Japanese monk!

Konnichi wa !

Today’s blog is about a classic figure of Japanese culture, Daruma !

You may not know that name but if you had ever visited Japan, it is unlikely you have not seen him at least once on the street, in a temple, on TV or in a souvenir shop.

Daruma dolls are made of papier-mâché, have a round shape and are hollow. They represented a monk with have no eyes, no arms nor legs… but with thick eyebrows and a mustache. The dolls are generally painted in vivid red color and are weighted at the bottom so that they will always return to an upright position when tilted over. Though considered as a toy, Daruma dolls are very ancient and have a design that is rich in symbolism and is regarded more as a talisman of good luck to the Japanese.

They have a sacred dimension because the name and the shape of the doll comes from a famous Buddhist monk called Daruma (達磨 / Bodhidharma), the legendary founder of Zen Buddhism !

The story of Daruma dolls used as a talisman goes back to the beginning of 18th century. The monk figures are said to have spread around thanks to Zen monks, first in the Gunma area, then slowly to the rest of the country.

The dolls price depends on its size, varying from +/- 1,000 yen for the smallest (around 15 cm high) to more than 10,000 yen for the big, 60 cm high types.

Poor Daruma is blind ! Well, at least at the beginning. The eyes of Daruma dolls are blank when sold in the shops. The tradition is to paint one eye while making a wish for a goal you wish to realizing within the year. Until the wish comes true, the doll is stored at home. By doing this, every time you see the doll, it reminds you of you goal and become a motivation to keep on do your best to reach you goal. If the wish is fulfilled, then you paint the second eye to thank the dear Daruma ! At the end of the year, all the Daruma are brought back to the temple they were purchased from for a traditional burning ceremony.

Daruma figure is so popular that it can easily be seen in the daily of most Japanese people. We have got one in our office !

Also, Daruma can also take on different forms. For example in Snowmen in Japan are called 雪だるま (yukidaruma, litt. Snow-Daruma). Also, Daruma gave his name to a popular playground game for children : だるまさんが転んだ (darumasan ga koronda, meaning “Darums fell down”), which is the equivalent of the western “Statues game” (Red Light/Green Light). No need to explain the rules, I theink everyone knows. Even the cats can play it ^^

Mata ne mina-san !

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