The Daruma dolls are Japanese traditional good luck charms representing (in an extremely stylized way) Bodhidharma, the legendary founder of Zen Buddhism. These very unusual dolls first appeared 200 years ago at the Shorinzan Daruma Temple from Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. At the time, the farmers in the area were suffering from hunger and the priest of the temple taught them to make Daruma dolls from papier-mâché and to sell them at the temple’s festival.
In time, the making of Daruma dolls became a tradition and even today, when Daruma dolls are popular all over Japan, 80% of them (about 1.6 million pieces!) are still produced here. Actually, the Daruma dolls made in Takasaki can be identified by the painting: the eyebrows are drawn to symbolize cranes and the area from the nose to mustache symbolizes a turtle, the crane and the turtle being both symbols of longevity in the Japanese tradition.
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: