Wish on a Daruma, not a star…

New (Blind/Unenlightened) Traditional Daruma Dolls
New (Blind/Unenlightened) Traditional Daruma Dolls

During my first winter trip to Japan (years ago), we visited Asakusa, Tokyo. One of my favorite places in Tokyo, btw… It was very close to the New Year so the holiday vibe (not so much Christmas, but New Years) was very abundant. One thing I couldn’t help but notice were these small shops that had thousands of strange looking balls for sale. This was when I learned of the Daruma Doll (pronounced Da-lew-mah).

“The Daruma doll (達磨 ), also known as a Dharma doll, is a hollow, round, Japanese traditional dollmodeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. These dolls, though typically red and depicting a bearded man (Dharma), vary greatly in color and design depending on region and artist. Though considered an omocha, meaning toy, Daruma has a design that is rich in symbolism and is regarded more as a talisman of good luck to the Japanese. Daruma dolls are seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck, making them a popular gift of encouragement. The doll has also been commercialized by many Buddhist temples to use alongside goal setting.” – Wikipedia

Japanese Traditional Daruma Doll
Japanese Traditional Daruma Doll

For Americans, when we want to make a wish or set a goal we think of Disney’s Pinnocchio and wish upon a star. The Japanese are little more practical and economical with their wish bringing. How so? In Japan, if you want to make a wish, you buy a Daruma Doll.

BodhidharmaYoshitoshi1887
Bodhidharma, woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, 1887

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch’an (Zen) to China. Little contemporary biographical information on Bodhidharma is extant, and subsequent accounts became layered with legend. According to one tradition Bodhidharma gained a reputation for, among other things, his practice of wall-gazing. Legend claims that he sat facing a wall inmeditation for a period of nine years without moving, which caused his legs to fall off from atrophy. Another popular legend is that after falling asleep during his nine-year meditation, he became angry with himself and cut off his eyelids to avoid ever falling asleep again.” – Wikipedia

Daruma Doll with one eye painted in.
Daruma Doll with one eye painted in.

After purchasing a Daruma Doll (superstition can be great for some economies), you make a wish/set a goal and paint in one of it’s eyes. You place it somewhere you will see it everyday (as a reminder of that wish/goal – very practical) until you accomplish that wish/goal. Once you do, you paint in the other eye. Want to make another wish? Do it all over again.

I don’t own any Daruma Dolls but have been tempted on several occasions to visit the local Japanese Market and try it out. However, I don’t think my wife would appreciate an apartment filled with one-eyed Daruma Dolls staring her down on a daily basis.

Hmm… could be an interesting practical joke…

"Enlightened" Daruma. (Enlightened because they have both eyes and now can see...)
“Enlightened” Daruma. (Enlightened because they have both eyes and now can see…)

Check out this video on how they are made:

And this one I just thought was cute but awesome if you have kids or students:

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Author: hikikomori78

American Hikikomori is an upcoming short film that explores the emotional struggles of a Japanese teenager named Isamu Fujihara, when he moves to America.

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