The Daruma dolls first appeared 200 years ago in Takasaki, Gunma, as a stylized representation of Bodhidharma, the legendary founder of Zen Buddhism. They were so successful that they are now one of the most popular good luck charms in Japan.
A similar doll, called Hime-daruma, was created in Matsuyama, but its popularity remained confined to the local area. The doll represents the legendary Empress Consort Jingu, the consort to Emperor Chuai, who led Japan between 201 and 269. The legend says that the Empress visited the Dōgo Onsen, and because she was pregnant, she donated one such doll, praying for an easy birth and a healthy child.
The Hime-daruma is today the most popular souvenir from Matsuyama and the surrounding region. Besides the original doll there is also a couple version (representing the Emperor and the Empress), one of the traditional wedding gifts in Shikoku.
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: