Lucky Daruma in Takasaki City

The 2004 Upper House election has been over recently here in Japan. Speaking of political elections in Japan, most of Japanese visualize a papier-mache “Lucky Daruma”, a hollow, rounded Japanese traditional doll. The daruma doll is originally modeled after Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who achieved enlightenment after 9 years of wall gazing, Zen sitting meditation gazing a wall in a cave near the Shaolin Monastery in China.

Takasaki Lucky Daruma originated at the Shorinzan Darumaji. Shinetsu, a Zen master and the founder of this temple, began a custom of giving the farmers pictures of Bodhidharma as a talisman to ward off evil during the year. In the Great Tenmei Famine (1782 – 1788), Tohgoku, the nineth priest of the temple, made a wooden effigy of Bodhidharma based on the pictures. He taught the farmers how to make these “Daruma dolls” so that they would have something to sell to tide them over in bad years.
(Cited from the SYORINZAN DARUMA-JI site)


Today, there exist many craft studios making Daruma dolls near the Shorinzan Darumaji, and about 80% of Daruma dolls are produced by these studios in Takasaki!

One day, I and my family members visited one of such studios, Daimonya. Going inside the shop, many rows of various darumas such as Lucky darumas, Prayer-for-vistory darumas and Prayer-for-easy-delivery darumas jumped out at me. Awesome! In the studio behind the shop craftspersons are concentrating on their works even in hot summer. (The peak shipping period of Darumas is winter.)

It is amazing to see that the craftpersons draw smoothly and seamlessly black eyebrows and beards on a red daruma face. By the way I love a brave and valiant face of daruma dolls. (The production flow is explained in the Takasaki City website.)

The daruma dolls have three important components: the eyebrows representing “Tsuru” (crane in English), the beards “Kame” (turtle in English) and the gold-colored Kanji “福入” (Fukuiri) drawn in the center of the belly. Each of them are said to bring us happiness. So, as you know, union gives strength!

With its shape and structure, the Daruma doll allows it to right itself when toppled. Life has its ups and downs. In Japanese, fall down seven times, get up eight. Get on with your life as Bodhidharma has done.