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Popular Japanese Good Luck Talisman - the Daruma Doll

Updated on September 4, 2017
Traditional Japanese Dolls - Daruma
Traditional Japanese Dolls - Daruma | Source

Popular Japanese good luck talisman – The Daruma Doll

The Daruma doll (also known as Dharma doll) has a design that is rich in symbolism. It is regarded more as a good luck talisman to the Japanese than a doll. It depicts Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism.

Shape, Size & Colour

Daruma doll, usually made of papier-mâché, is a tumbler doll and is known as “okiagari” in Japanese. Oki meaning “to get up” and agari “arise”.

It comes in many sizes, the standard size is larger than a basketball.

The traditional colour of the doll is red and is generally believed to have come from the colour of the robe of a high-ranking priest.

Facial hair & Eyes

The eyebrows are in the shape of a crane while the cheek hair resembles tortoise shell.

The doll normally has blank white eyes.

Note: Design and colour may vary greatly depending on region and artist.


Symbolism of physical features

Being a tumbler doll (Okiagari Koboshi), Daruma doll will always return to an upright position when tilted over. Thus, it is closely associated with the phrase “Nanakorobi Yaoki” which means Seven times down, Eight times up - symbolic of perseverance, ability to overcome adversity, and to recover from misfortune.

As red is believed to ward off disease, Daruma figurine is viewed as protector from sickness.

The facial hair in the shape of crane and tortoise shell is a symbolic representation of longevity.

Eye-painting custom

The doll is usually sold with blank white eyes. Many Japanese would buy a Daruma figurine, and after making a resolution, paint in one of the eyes. Upon achieving their goals during the year, they paint in the other eye. The one-eyed doll therefore serves as reminder of their goals and motivate them to achieve their targets. Traditionally, the painting of the eyes is done by the head of the household.

At the headquarters of some Japanese political parties, large Daruma dolls and amulets can often be seen..


Annual burning ceremony of Daruma figurines

At year end, it is customary for all the old dolls to be burned. This traditional annual burning ceremony, called Daruma Kuyo, is usually held right after New Year’s Day. New Daruma dolls will be bought for the new year.

Origins of the good luck charm

The proclaimed birth place of this good luck charm is said to be Daruma-dera (Temple of Daruma) in Takasaki, Japan. The founder of the temple used to give away New Year’s charms depicting Bodhidharma to worshippers. As the charm is only effective for one year, new ones will have to be produced every year.

To solve this problem, the temple provided the people with wooden block moulds to make their own three-dimensional papier-mâché charms.

The Daruma Doll quickly grew in popularity and became a mascot of Takasaki region.

Being one of the most popular talismans, they can be found in shops selling Japanese products.

Please refer to Japanese Princess Daruma Doll for the female version of this unique doll.

© 2010 pinkytoky


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