Teru Teru Bozu

Japan is very much a kawaii culture. Think of Hello Kitty, Doraemon and yuru-chara like Kumamon. Even official letters from the government, tax office or health center cannot do without specially designed characters, the cuter, the better. More traditional ones that originate centuries ago are the maneki neko in stores, the ubiquitous tanuki and the teru teru bozu.

This little doll resembles our kids’ idea of spooky disguise: put a bedsheet over your head, paint on black eyes and turn into a ghost! The resemblance is purely superficial though. In Japan, a teru teru bozu is believed to be a good spirit that influences the weather!

These dolls were originally made by farmers as a prayer for good weather. They became very popular in cities during the Edo period when they were made by children and hung outside their windows just before a school outing. Sadly, they don’t seem to be very common anymore, probably because of vastly improved weather forecasts. In all my time in Japan I have only seen the one above – and at a temple to boot (which is funny because the name means literally shine shine monk.) However, if you do see one, you can find out easily how enticing the upcoming school outing is to the child: If the teru teru bozu hangs heads up, the prayer is for good weather the next day, heads down, and the prayer is for rain. I wish I had known a trick like that when I was in school…

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