Get Good Luck at the Jindaiji Temple Daruma Doll Festival (だるま祭り)
We went to Tokyo's second oldest temple for its annual Daruma Festival
daruma are hollow traditional handmade Japanese wishing dolls
and is a big part of Buddhism.
The daruma dolls are modeled after Bodhidharma,
a famous 5th~6th century Buddhist monk in China
who is said to be the founder of Zen Buddhism.
In Japan however, he is known as Daruma and the resemblance of
the person and the doll is pretty interesting.
It's also said that Bodhidharma (Daruma) meditated for nine years straight,
causing his limbs to eventually degenerate,
which is why the daruma dolls are rounded and look the way they do.
- Image source Zen Buddhism
There are a lot of rumors and beliefs
to why the daruma's eyes aren't filled in.
Some believe it's to depict Bodhidharma (Daruma)
because during his nine-year meditation,
he fell asleep for most of it and when he woke up
he was so angry so he cut his eyelids off
to prevent from falling asleep again during meditation.
Which is pretty dark but cool at the same time.
Others say it's to represent enlightenment,
and other's just have no clue of its deep meaning
and only know you make a wish while drawing a filled in circle on one eye,
then once it comes true fill in the other eye.
Originally daruma are red, which stand for overall good luck and fortune.
However those with more specific wishes and goals,
you can choose a specific color of daruma.
Many stands at the festival had charts
showing what color represented what.
Some colors had the same meaning across the board,
whereas others were different.
So we think besides the traditional red daruma,
there really isn't a standard meaning per color.
It may just depend on the craftsman of the daruma.
But if in doubt, you can always just go for the red daruma.
Some examples of the colors and meanings are:
Red - Overal good luck
Pink - Love (find a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife)
Gold - Wealth, improve talents
Yellow - Safety
Blue - Pray for your deepest prayers to be answered, success in school/test
Purple - Health
Green - Longevity (purple and green often switch)
Really though when you get down to it,
darumas are somewhat of a representation of your goals and strength.
So regardless the color, you are announcing your goals and wishes and showing your proactivity.
There really isn't a specific time to buy daruma, but they have been somewhat commercialized being New Year's charms. In that way, they are similar to New Year resolution charms.
An interesting fact about Japanesemedia, is that it is somewhat considered taboo to show a person's daruma on TV.
Our Japanese TV director friends told us the reason is that you are almost publicizing "to the world" that that person's wish hasn't come true yet. Same goes for daruma with both eyes filled, you won't see it because you are almost bragging about the wish coming true. We were really surprised to find out daruma are taken that seriously to some people.
〇Jindaiji Daruma Festival〇
Despite living minutes by bike from Jindaiji, this was our first time going to the festival. This year it was on March 3rd (Sat) and 4th (Sun) from 9am~5pm. We read that if you go around 2pm the Jindaiji monks will do some kind of performance called Oneri Gyoretsu, which is just the temple's monks walking around the temple while traditional music plays. I am more than certain we were there at 2pm, but we must have just not heard the music and missed it. Which is a shame but no big deal since we were just as entertained looking at all the daruma!!
There Were All Kinds of Daruma
Different Facial Hair
Besides the different colors,
what was fun about this festival was that no daruma looked the same.
Even the red ones!
Take the top darumas in the picture above.
Notice that their eyebrows are different
from the smaller one in the corner?
Their eyebrows contain the Chinese character 寿 (kotobuki),
which means longevity.
- I learned that day that even the facial hair has a deep representation. Can you see a couple of images within the facial hair?? They took two animals from the Asian culture that symbolizes longevity and incorporated them into the daruma's facial hair. The eyebrows are supposed to be cranes, and the cheek parts of the beard are tortoises or tortoise shells.🐢 In many Asian cultures they say cranes live for 1,000 years, and turtles for 10,000 years. So by including both represents the desire for a long life. The cranes I can kind of see....but not the tortoise. Then this daruma specifically (in the picture above), the chin part of the beard is Mt. Fuji.🗻
Made from Different Materials
Same Body Shape, Different Character
To take the maneki neko daruma a step forward, there were also these cuties.
Manekineko that had either Gods or daruma on their tummies.
If you think about it,
the maneki nekos bring good luck,
and so do daruma or Japanese gods,
so it's basically like
you're getting double luck.
We liked these maneki nekos but
we didn't like
how the darumas were smiling.
If they had a more stern face,
we would've gotten one.
It is still a cute idea though.
Adding an Eye
We got a more decorative daruma,
completely covered in Japanese paper, washi.
We took it up to the monks and got its eye filled in.
While the eye is getting filled in,
you're supposed to wish for something but I was too preoccupied
taking pictures and watching the monk write the character
I forgot to make a wish.
So I hope my husband made one for the both of us!
Notice how its eyes are a circle,
different to the Sanskrit characters the monks here at Jindaiji write.
You will mostly see darumas with these kinds of eyes.
One of the vendors told us that getting the eye filled in with these Sanskrit characters is really rare and a special custom to Jindaiji Temple.
So we are really glad we got to experience this
and if you get a chance to next festival, you should!
〇Other Things at During the Daruma Festival◉
- If buying a daruma isn't really something you're too interested in but want to get SOMETHING as souvenir...then Japanese temples and shrines have a really unique thing where you can get honorable stamps. Many people in Japan own a stamp book, Goshuinchou (御朱印帳), and they take it to temples and shrines all over Japan to get stamped. We have a stamp book too but forgot to bring it with us. So for those who forget or don't have a book, you can just buy the stamp on a sheet of paper. Then if you have a book you can glue it in later. These stamps are normally really cheap, depending on the shrine/temple ranges from 200yen~500yen.
Daruma make wonderful souvenirs!
Regardless of your beliefs, it's something fun to do like a wishing well, and the daruma dolls have an interesting look to them. Now that I learned all the history and culture behind these dolls, I've become even more interested in them. So next time I get the chance to go to Gunma Prefecture, I plan on going to the daruma museum!