Daruma Doll だるま

Bodhidharma

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century CE.

The Daruma Doll (kanji: 達磨) is a famous Japanese doll modelled after a Japanese monk called Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. They are sometimes called Dharma doll. These dolls, though typically red and depicting a bearded man (Dharma), vary greatly in colour 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 doll

Daruma doll

Daruma dolls are usually made of paper-mâché, have a round shape, are hollow, and weighted at the bottom to allow it to return to a upright position when tilted over. 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. The eyes of Daruma are often blank when sold. You fill in one eye upon setting a goal, then the other upon fulfilling your goal. In this way, every time you see the one-eyed Daruma, you recall the goal. One explanation how this custom started says that in order to motivate Daruma-san to grant your wish, you promise to give him full sight once the goal is accomplished. Traditionally, the Daruma was purchased as a household, and that only the head of the household would paint in the eyes.

Daruma doll with one eye filled

A daruma doll with one eye filled in for wishing.

Daruma doll with two eyes filled

Full sight was given to Daruma for granting one’s wish.

Daruma dolls

Daruma dolls comes in many colours or drawings.

At the end of the year, all the Daruma are brought back to the temple they were purchased from for a traditional burning ceremony. This ceremony, called the Daruma Kuyo (Japanese: だるま供養) is held once a year usually right after New Years Day. At these events, people bring the Daruma figures they had used that year to the temple. After expressing gratitude to them, they turn it over to the temple and buy new ones for the next year.

Daruma Kuyo

Daruma burning ceremony, Daruma Kuyo in Dairyuji (Gifu) 大龍寺 (岐阜市) in January 2008.

Daruma Otoshi

Daruma Otoshi. The Daruma character, hammer, and rainbow-colored pieces.

Many children’s games make mention of Daruma. Daruma Otoshi is a traditional game played with a daruma doll in five pieces, usually in the colors of the rainbow, from top to bottom: head – a man’s face, blue, green, yellow, red. The game is played by using a small hammer to hit each of the colored pieces, from bottom to the top, without letting the pieces fall during the game.

Doraemon Daruma Otoshi

Doraemon Daruma Otoshi


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