Japanese Culture Teaching Notes


The Fujieda Daruma

Born of a royal family in a small country in the south of India, Bodhidharma founded Zen Buddhism in the sixth century and introduced it to China. He is said to have sat in meditation of nine years, facing the wall of a room at the Shorinji Temple in China and to have attained spiritual awakening or supreme enlightenment (satori). A tumbler doll representing Bodhidharma sitting in meditation is made of paper-mache, limbless and painted in red. It is made in various sizes, but the Daruma doll of standard size is as large as a water melon. Since this doll recovers its upright position when it is tumbled, it is also called ‘okiagari-kobosho’. It is an embodiment of the proverb that says, ‘If you fall down seven times, get up eight (nana-korobi-yaoki). The Daruma is a popular mascot especially among shop-keepers. Daruma fairs are held mostly at New Year’s time and the Daruma dolls sold at these fairs have no eyes painted on the face. The eyes are put in by the possessor of the doll when he has had his wish realized.

The Fujieda Daruma – From the olden days, Fujieda was officially recognized as a place to stop and rest along the Eastern Sea Road. (This road was the main route that connected the centers of power in Kyoto and Tokyo. These official rest areas became famous for their local products.)
Since the Edo Period (1600-1868), Fujieda Daruma have been a tradition, born with the shop around 170 years ago.
Yakumo Koizumi, who came originally from England and was originally known as Lafcadio Hearn, was a great writer of the Meiji Era. Because he loved the Fujieda Daruma very much, they are often called ‘Yakumo Daruma’ or ‘Otokichi Daruma’ (Its shape is as a pumpkin or oval face).
Distinct features of the Fujieda Daruma include eight written strokes on the left and right of the doll which look like side locks.
The tradition of hand making these Daruma, or other paper-mache masks by one is closely guarded.

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