Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Daruma Festival

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Daruma Matsuri in Fukushima. It is an annual festival notable for a wide variety of daruma-related merchandise. I've always enjoyed festivals in Japan, even if they are light on attractions and heavy on food, so I was happy to make the two-hour round trip.

What is a daruma? Also known as a tumbling doll, a daruma is a doll modeled after the Bodhidharma, meaning there is Buddhist influence behind this particular tradition. The dolls are made from papier-mâché and weighted at the base to prevent them from falling over. The most common color for a daruma is red, although I saw every color of daruma at the festival. Sometimes the colors carry a special meaning:

Red is for luck and good fortune.
Purple is for health and longevity.
Yellow is for security and protection.
Gold is for wealth and prosperity.
White is for love and harmony.

A daruma doll is typically purchased at the beginning of the year, and acts as a good luck charm for its owner. Select a goal, and then use a paintbrush or marker to fill in one of the daruma's two blank eyes. When that goal has been accomplished, fill in the other eye to signify its completion. In some cases, people will burn their daruma dolls in festive ceremonies at the end of the year, but this is not commonplace. Either way, I find it useful to have a physical object to concentrate on when striving to better myself. I currently have a daruma on my shelf that will have two eyes once I finish my teaching gig in Japan.

I also saw these guys at the festival. Pretty interesting! They were advertising Dharuriser, a superhero based around daruma and Buddhist mythology. Dharuriser @ twitter, I believe.

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