“Daruma”, the Japanese Traditional Craft

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A red round body with a big black eye, Daruma is known as a lucky charm in Japan. When making a wish, people draw the left eye of the Daruma doll, and when their wish is granted they draw the right eye. Today I would like to introduce the history of this cute talisman.


The History of “Daruma”

Daruma Daishi, the founder of Zen Buddhism is said to be the model of Daruma. Daruma Daishi was born in Southern India, but went to China and started Chinese Zen (Buddhism), and his teachings became widely known eventually in Japan. He was a very devout Buddhist, and it is said that he sat in Zen meditation for 9 years. Because of that, both of his hands and feet decayed and fell off. The Daruma doll does not have hands or feet considering this legend. In Japan, the town of Takasaki in Gunma Prefecture is famous for its amount of production of Daruma. Their brand “Takasaki Daruma” started from later 17th century, when the chief priest of a temple made the wooden pattern of the Daruma and asked the silk-raising farmers to make a Daruma doll with paper mache. The temple originally drew Daruma Daishi on a paper as a talisman, but because of their unique production of the doll, it gradually spread throughout Japan during the Meiji era.

he founder of Zen Buddhism called Dharma

he founder of Zen Buddhism called Dharma(drawn by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi)


The Shapes and Color of Daruma

The reason why the Daruma’s body is because red makes people have the image of blood or fire, and said to be effective for protecting one from evil. When Daruma was widely known over the country, white Daruma was also made so it would make a combination of red and white which is the color of festive occasions. Nowadays, Takasaki Daruma makes Daruma in many colors such as purple, yellow, green, pink, and gold and each color has its own meaning as a charm. The shape of a Daruma was more similar to a human body, but its shape became rounder little by little, and the present form is able to come back standing when it is pushed down. By that shape, Daruma represents the spirit of “always rising up no matter how much you fall or fail”. In Japan, there is a common way of saying this: “Nanakorobi Yaoki”.


The variety of Daruma made in Japan

Daruma is made almost everywhere in Japan, and the specific shapes and sizes, and the material differs between the areas.


Takasaki Daruma

Takasaki Daruma is made in Takasaki city, of Gunma Prefecture and 80% of Daruma dolls are made here. Daruma is often used in elections, and those Darumas are usually Takasaki Darumas. The dry climate is fit for the production of Darumas, and it first was known as a side work for the silk farmers. The shape is round like a ball, and the face is white. It has a mustache and a eyebrow which symbolizes a crane and a turtle, both which are symbol of good luck. Takasaki Daruma do not have eyes at first. The left eye is first drawn when making a wish, and when the wish is granted the right eye is drawn.

Takasaki Daruma

Takasaki Daruma


Matsukawa Daruma

Matsukawa Daruma is made in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Its biggest originality is its body, which is half blue and half red. Its eyebrows are not drawn but real hair is used. On the blue half of the body, the god of good luck and treasure ships are drawn. As mentioned above, Daruma is usually produced without their eyes, but Matsukawa Daruma have eyes from the start. This is because Matsukawa Daruma has meaning of “looking around all directions”.

Matsukawa Daruma

Matsukawa Daruma


Hime Daruma

Daruma’s face is usally very masculine and gallant, but there are kinds which the shape is more feminine. Hime Daruma (“Hime” means princess in Japanese) is made in Takeda City, in Oita Prefecture, and it symbolizes family happiness and prosperous business. Hime Daruma is also made in Matsuyama City, in Ehime Prefecture where it is very famous for their hot spring, “Dougo Onsen”. The ones made in Matsuyama is preferred as a wedding or birth gift since it is the talisman for child’s happiness and growth.

Hime Daruma

Hime Daruma


Not all wishes can be granted, some may not be the way you wish. But the world of Zen Buddhism helps you achieve salvation. If you encounter any difficulties, how about finding a way to overcome with the help of a Daruma?

(noren Ichiro)



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