Category Archives: Religion

Daruma Wishes

At a Takasaki temple, in the city where Daruma were created, every year you can go there, buy a wooden Daruma and string you wish onto a wishing post. As you can see, on the front is the traditional face and on the back you write your wishes for the new year.

And on a different post / tree (I’ve seen both), you can tie your bad luck. I’ve been told that you can only tie it with your non-dominant¬†hand to let it “fly away”. Mine (tied with my left hand) was still there later. (Does that mean I kept it?) :-<

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Posted by on 18/01/2012 in Places, Religion


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the Last Daruma

I promise, this will be the last post about Daruma. ūüôā

Okay, so the eyebrows and the cheeks, did you think about the animals? Hopefully. Did you think of turtles and cranes? Probably not…the eyebrows are supposed to resemble a crane, who is said to live 1,000 years, and the cheeks are the pattern off of a turtle, who lives 10,000 years. This adds¬†longevity to the goal of the person dotting the eye of the Daruma.

That’s right…when you make your goal, you fill in only one eye. When you reach the goal, you fill in the other eye. Then, around the beginning of¬†January, you take your Daruma to a shrine (or portable shrine, like in the picture below). Toss a coin in the box, say a short thank you / prayer, and then go out a buy a new one from one of the stalls.

What happens to the Darumas afterwards? They’re gathered up by priests, then chanted over as they’re all burned at the shrine.

Poor Darumas…

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Posted by on 12/01/2011 in Functional Things, Religion


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Isesaki Daruma

Yep, another post about Daruma…’cause honestly, there’s a lot to know about them. So, where do you buy Daruma?¬†Especially¬†for the beginning of the year?

You buy them at the town fair!

Where all these cool men and women are selling them from stalls! If you look closely, you can see red, black, yellow, pink, white and blue Darumas of all sizes.

So, this is the main street of my town, Isesaki, and today was the Daruma festival (yeah, weirdly enough on a Tuesday…) Also, so you don’t get too¬†disappointed, our festival is a LOT smaller than the neighboring cities of Maebashi or Takasaki (where the Daruma was¬†originally created). Amusingly enough, one of the stall owners, who was selling crepes, had also been in Maebashi on the 9th and she remembered seeing me and my husband there!

Anyhow, back to the Daruma. As you can see, they’re eyeless. When you buy one, you make a resolution and fill in one eye. Then, through the year, it’ll help remind you to make progress on your goal.

Okay, here’s your task for the day. I’ve put up three different pictures of Daruma by this point. You need to look at the eyebrows, do you see the shape of any type of flying animal?

And look at the cheek hair…does it look like an animal’s pattern?

Feel free to leave your guesses in the comment section below!


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the Isaac Daruma

There is an expression about the Daruma, “seven times down, eight times up.”

This is because the dolls are weighted on the bottom so that it will always come back up when knocked over, and the expression is why the Daruma is said to bring happiness and prosperity, while warding off accidents and bad luck (or recovering from misfortune).

Here’s a Daruma one of Isaac’s student’s¬†grandfather¬†made the traditional way; from crushed animal bone and shell (and some other stuff). On the left, in gold, it says “wishes for¬†success” and the right side says “wishes for safety and¬†commune.” In the middle, in black, it says “Isaac” in Japanese (well, as best it can…) ūüôā

In the past, they all used to be one color, red. The main theory of thought is that the monk had a red robe. Nowadays, you can find them in many colors. including the original, each representing a different hope; blue -> progress, green -> fertility / relaxing, yellow -> health / safety, etc.) Since they are sold in the beginning of the year, you can sometimes find Daruma either colored as the zodiac animal (yellow and black for the year of the Tiger) or with some extra parts (bunny ears on the top for the year of the Rabbit).


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Posted by on 10/01/2011 in Functional Things, Religion


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Wibble Daruma

Wibble: The act of making a cute awwww face when confronted with something adorable. Like this!

Isn’t he cute? Look at those eyes! And that little cat grin! I found him in the¬†capital¬†city (Maebashi) of my prefecture (Gunma). He’s a daruma, a¬†paper-m√Ęch√© doll made from the¬†legend¬†of a monk named Bodhidharma from India…only this particular one is on a poster. Today, we’ll have the the tale of the Daruma, and on Tuesday I’ll talk about why Japan uses it.

So, Bodhidharma was supposed to have been the third son to a king in India. Following instructions from his master, he went to China and sat in meditation for a period of seven / nine years. Since he didn’t move for that entire time, his legs and arms atrophied. He also¬†decided¬†to cut off his eyelids to acoid falling asleep again after he fell asleep for the first time. And this is the¬†legendary¬†story¬†of the cute thing pictured above…

On a side note, if you’re still not too disgusted…his discarded eyelids supposedly sprouted the first tea plant…

Daruma (Da Irish Da – ru rue – ma Ma) – let’s not forget our¬†Japanese¬†lesson!


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And upon my wall rest the brothers Jizo (Ji Gee – zo so with a z sound). I think they’re cute, but Isaac finds them a bit odd.

A Jizo is a statue in Japan that can be found anywhere but is normally around graveyards and road crossings. That’s because the Jizo is a Japanese divinity; the Guardian of children, especially those that have died before their parents. ¬†In the 1980s¬†he also became the guardian of the “water children”, all of those that have died before they were able to be born.

People can clothe the statue in bibs, children’s clothes and hats. These are gifts to Jizo for helping guide their children to the afterlife (and for hiding them from demons too).

Besides children, Jizo also protects travelers (which is why he can be found on the roadside) and interestingly enough, to me at least, firefighters.

My little Jizos, on the other hand, are telling me “Your smile is my treasure” so I love them. This was given to me by one of my JTEs (Japanese Teacher of English) and I still adore it. In one of the nearby shops I’ve found more pictures and even a¬†calendar, but Isaac says one is enough. ūüôā

Oh, and in their right hands they’re carrying a Shakujo (Sha from another – ku coo – jo Joe) which is a jingle staff, making noise to alert¬†insects¬†and smaller animals of his approach so that he doesn’t step on them.

Sounds like a nice guy, eh?

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Posted by on 04/01/2011 in Deities, Religion