Daruma doll

As several of my friends asked about the picture adorning the “About Me” page, I thought a short explanation is in order.

Japanese daruma dollThis is a daruma doll. It is used by the Japanese as a talisman for good luck and it is also seen as a symbol of perseverance. The idea behind this is the following: Daruma dolls are purchased without eyes. You make a wish – or set a goal – and while doing so you paint in one eye of the doll. When your wish is fulfilled – or your goal reached – you reward the daruma by painting in the second eye.

Daruma dolls are made out of paper mache or some similar light material, but with a very heavy base, which makes them impossible to topple over – hence the symbol of perseverance, an endless falling and getting up again. They are modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism who lived in the 6th century. The story goes that he meditated for nine years without moving, so his legs atrophied – hence the round shape of the dolls. They come in many colors and sizes, but most of them are red – the color of a head priest’s robe – and fit comfortably in two hands. The eyebrows and the beard are modeled after animals that symbolise longevity – the eyebrows have the shape of a crane, and the beard on the cheeks the shape of a tortoise. However, the design here may vary according to where they have been made.

Nowadays, daruma are widely sold in souvenir shops, but traditionally they could be bought only at Buddhist temples. The idea was that a doll was “valid” for one year only, and at the end of the year you would return it back to the temple where you bought it, where a ceremony would be held to thank the Bodhidharma for the services rendered, and then the dolls would be ritually burned. I am not sure what to do if a wish is not fulfilled within the year you bought the doll though…

In any case, my daruma was bought in a simple souvenir shop in Miyajima last year, so I don’t have to return it anywhere. And I don’t have any intentions to burn it until my wish is granted, no matter how long that takes.

What my wish is? Oh, can’t you guess…?