Culture Note: Daruma Dolls

Daruma Dolls are a common sight in Japan. They represent preserverence and good luck and are meant to encourage people to reach for their goals. The dolls can come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, though traditionally they are round, red, and depict a bearded man with two blank eyes.

The hollow, round daruma doll is modeled after Bodhidarma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. According to legend, he wore red robes and would spend long periods of meditation, gazing at walls. According to other legends, he spent nine years meditating and his legs fell off due to not being used, and also during this meditation, he grew angry at himself for falling asleep, so he cut off his eyelids. These legends were used for inspiration of the round shape of the doll. One feature of its shape is if you tip it over, it will snap back up to the standing position. So no matter how many times it gets knocked down, it gets right back up.

In order to use a Daruma doll yourself, when you have decided on a goal, you color in one of the blank eyes. Then place the doll in a place that you see often. The doll sits there to remind you to keep working at it and no matter how many times you fail or get “knocked down” to never give up and to get right back up again. When you finally reach your goal, you color in the other eye, get another Daruma, and set a new goal. In Japan, the day after the New Year, it is traditional to burn the dDarumas and then buy new ones for the new year. If you want to get a Daruma, they can be found at Buddhist temples or at oriental gift shops.


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