Japanese Princess Daruma Doll

Daruma dolls
Daruma dolls | Source

Female Daruma Doll

In my earlier hub I have wrote about Daruma doll. While such dolls are mostly male, some Japanese localities have female ones, known as “ehime daruma” or “princess daruma”.

Modeled after Bodhidharma, founder of Zen, daruma dolls are tumbler dolls and usually made of papier-mache. When pushed, they always return to their original upright position – symbolic of perseverance in overcoming adverse situation. They are considered good luck talismans by the Japanese.

These dolls usually come with blank white eyes. The Japanese will buy the figurine, make a resolution, and then paint in one eye. After the goal has been reached, they fill in the other eye. Therefore, it can be used as a reminder of uncompleted major task or goal.

At the end of each year, old ones will be burned and new ones bought to bring good luck for the coming year.

 

There are many styles of Daruma in the various localities of Japan. The following are some of the female daruma doll designs:-

(1) Princess Daruma Dolls from Matsuyama

While staying at Matsuyama’s Hot Spring Doogo during a journey to the Korean battlefield, the legendary Empress Jinguu Koogoo discovered her pregnancy. She made a doll offering to the gods to ask for blessings for the baby to be delivered safely and growing up healthily.

Called the “Roly-poly Doll of Doogo” (Doogo no Okiagari), it was at first a wooden one but later papier-mache was used. The tradition of selling such doll is more than 2 centuries old.

It has become a talisman for safe delivery and healthy upbringing of children, as well as early recovery from sickness.

(2) Daruma in pairs

This design pairs off princess daruma with a male daruma.

Representing the Empress and the Emperor, the female is in red while the male is dressed in white or dark blue brocade clothes. They are popular wedding gift amongst the Japanese.

They also serve as good luck talisman and usually given to pregnant woman on the day of delivery, so that mother and baby will be blessed.

Such dolls usually come in big sizes and are sold at majority of Shikoku island stores.

(3) Princess Daruma from Takeda


This "Hime Daruma" is in remembrance of Aya, wife of a samurai from the ancient Oka clan in the old province of Bungo in Kyushu, Japan.

Aya is admired for her endurance of spiritual and emotional conflict. This lady found peace through leading a pure and noble life. She is also called Takeda Onna Daruma, the Lady Daruma of Takeda.

The face of this doll is quite long with small and slender eyes. Her dark red robe is decorated with the auspicious pine, bamboo and plum blossoms. A male symbol is painted on her back.

During the second night of the New Year, such dolls will be thrown at the entrances of homes throughout the village at dawn by young people of the town of Takeda. This is to bless all homes with lots of good luck during the coming year.

(4) Princess Daruma from Uto, Kumamoto prefecture in Kyushu

Known as “The little Roly-Poly Daruma” (Okina Koboshi), this is also made in remembrance of the above-mentioned Empress.

The doll has a pretty face with long slender eyes and is surrounded by one thick black circle. Its crescent-shaped eyebrows looked like a new moon. Stripes of gold can be seen on the head. The 3 lines under her chin make one think of a juunihitoe (elegant and highly complex 12-layered kimono). On the lower part of the doll, there is some kind of pattern in blue which may well have been a rendering of the auspicious pine, bamboo and plum blossom expression. It also has a painting of male symbol on its back.

The production of this doll started since the time of the 3rd Tokugawa Shogun. The death of its last maker, Mrs Sakamoto Katsu, in 1981 seemed to mark the end of production.  Years ago her eldest son, upon retirement, tried to resurrect this tradition.


In the late 1990s, some human rights activists claimed that the practice of making daruma dolls without eyes (and the practice associated with them) is discriminatory against the blind.


It used to be a common scene at Japanese election whereby the winning political party draws the other eye to signify victory. To avoid negative publicity, some media organizations and politicians now refrained from showing eyeless daruma altogether.

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