Get Good Luck at the Jindaiji Temple Daruma Doll Festival (だるま祭り)

Tokyo Culture 2018.03.08
Famous Japanese Festival in Tokyo in the Spring 〇◉

We went to Tokyo's second oldest temple for its annual Daruma Festival

◉About Daruma◉

  • Normally red, 
    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 
    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
    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 
    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 Japanese
media, 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

The Jindaiji Temple in Chofu, Tokyo is the second oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo (the first being Sensoji Temple in Asakusa). Every March, Jindaiji holds a Daruma Doll Festival and people from all over come to buy an open-eyed daruma. There are about 300 stalls along and around the temple ground so people are sure to have a good time and find the daruma of their dreams. 

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 (
    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

  • There were also Japanese ceramic bells (土鈴; dorei) painted as daruma.
  •  Recently was Girls Day, or Hina Matsuri (ひな祭り), so there were even "Hina Matsuri daruma". Not as cute as the real hina dolls but the idea is still cute!🎎

Same Body Shape, Different Character

Then for the pure purpose of decoration, there were a whole new version of daruma dolls. Japanese shiba, cute maneki neko, traditional bowl haircut girls... Even daruma representing the Chinese calendar...which were SUPER cute!🐍🐯🐵 However, with their eyes already being filled, it takes away the fun of filling them yourself. We noticed a leopard print daruma though and its eyes were still open like the traditional daruma. Being a lover of leopard print, I was super tempted to buy it but ended up not getting one. 

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,
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. 

  • It wasn't until later on that we got the feeling....
    That daruma, especially when they're in a group...

  • Are really just like soulless zombies. Their empty eyes with the strong rings around them are actually a bit creepy after a while.
Everywhere you looked were daruma waiting to be sold. It's crazy to imagine each and every single one was handcrafted. What is evern crazier is some of the sizes people bought at the festival. Where do they put a massive daruma that is about the size of their child!?!?!?!

Adding an Eye

At the festival, if you bought a daruma, you could bring it over to a monk for the Daruma Kaigansho, or "Spiritual Awakening" (lit translated as "Eye Opener") booth. The monk will write the character 阿 (pronounced "ah") on the left eye which stands for the "O" in Oma, a sacred syllable in Buddhism that is said to be known as the beginning of things in life.
For those who had old darumas that they wanted to get their eye filled in because their wish came true, that was an option as well. Just line up and give it to the monks where they fill in the right eye with the character 吽 (pronounced "oon") which stands for the "m" in Om, standing for the end.  Once you got your old daruma's right eye filled in, it's customary to get rid of it. However, you just can't throw it in the trash or anything like that. You have to take it to a temple where they burn it. For that reason, there was a massive "daruma offering place" set up right in front of the temple. There you saw many people getting rid of their old darumas. 
  • 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!

  • And here's our super cool Jindaiji daruma doll!
    It doesn't cost anything to get an eye filled in by the monks, 
    however, donations are appreciated of course.

〇Other Things at During the Daruma Festival◉

  • Jindaiji is known for its delicious soba,
    but another popular food there is this grilled mochi!!
    There is sweet bean paste inside,
    and you can either get it plain or covered in kinako,
    which is like roasted soy flour. 

  • 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.
The Jindaiji Daruma Festival is every year on March 3rd and 4th.​

★Jindaiji Temple (深大寺)

 5-15-1 Jindaiji Motomachi, Chofu, Tokyo 182-0017
**Jindaiji Temple Official Site**
From Mitaka Station South Exit, get on the #65 bus towards Jindaiji (深大寺)
Roughly a 20 minute ride, ¥220
Google Maps

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! 

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