Daruma Dolls – Zen Buddhism Good Luck Charms

Red daruma dolls in Japan.

Several red daruma dolls lined up in rows.

Daruma dolls – just about everyone has seen one of them at least once in their lifetime, even if they have never even traveled to Japan before. But what exactly are they? We will reveal this, along with their meaning, history, and where you can buy them.

Topics Covered

  • What are daruma dolls?
  • How are they used?
  • How did they originate?
  • Who uses them?
  • Where and how are they made?
  • Where to buy daruma dolls
Daruma dollDescriptionBuy
Black good luck charmBrings good luck and wealth, while protecting against evil. The doll has dimensions of 2.7″ x 2.7″ x 3.75″ and weighs 0.353 ounces.
Large red daruma dollBrings good luck and fortune. The doll has dimensions of 4″ x 3.75″ x 3.5″ and weighs 12 ounces.
A set of daruma dollsSet of 7 – each consisting of different colors. The dolls have dimensions of 6.69″ x 1.97″ x 5.91″ and weigh 5.4 ounces.
Small red good luck charmBrings good luck and fortune. The doll has dimensions of 1.8″ x 1.8″ x 2.3″ and weighs 0.9 ounces.

What are daruma dolls?

These little dolls are good luck charms with deep roots in Zen Buddhism. Appearance-wise, they are round, hollow within, and have no arms and legs, while the bottom is weighted down so that if it falls over, it corrects itself automatically.

This ability to auto-correct itself is the result of a short, yet difficult to pronounce Japanese proverb.. nanakorobi yaoki – which roughly translates to fall down seven times stand up eight.

How are they used?

A daruma doll has blank white eyes that you have to color in. First, make a wish or set a goal for yourself, and then color in only the left eye. Once your wish has come true, or you have accomplished your goal, you can attribute the good fortune to your doll and then complete it by coloring in the right eye.

Also, you will have to choose the correct color doll for your wish or goal.

For example:

Red is for general good luck and good fortune.

Pink is for love and romance.

Silver is for increasing your social status.

White is for purity.

Yellow/gold is for fame and money.

Green is for good health.

Orange is for good grades at school.

Blue is for good grades at university or work promotion.

Purple is for personal improvement.

How did they originate?

The history of the daruma doll is fascinating. It’s named after a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma (Daruma-Daishi in Japanese), who is accredited with bringing various things such as Zen Buddhism, green tea, Zazen meditation, and Shaolin Kung fu to China sometime during the 5th to 6th century AD.

Bodhidharma is an interesting character and there are lots of rumors and legends surrounding him. For example, it is rumored that he once spent a solid 9 years meditating with his eyes wide open while staring at a wall.

Nevertheless, around 1,000 years later a Japanese monk in Takasaki drew pictures of the Bodhidharma for each of his followers. These pictures served as good luck charms, but the monk eventually became tired of the near-constant request for more pictures.

He devised a plan. He stated that each charm lasts a year and that every follower has to make a charm from paper-mache and a wooden block mold that the temple provides. These daruma doll charms picked up in popularity, especially during the Edo period, and their popularity continues to this day.

Who uses them?

The use of these dolls may date back centuries, but they are still very much used across Japan today. Everyone from housewives, local farmers, businessmen, school and university students, and even politicians in the Japanese parliament use them.

Where and how are daruma dolls made?

It’s believed that up to 80% of all daruma dolls (sold in Japan, on eBay, Amazon, and every other country) are made in Takasaki, a city north of Tokyo in the Gunma Prefecture.

The dolls are made the same way today as it was centuries ago. Forget about plastic, porcelain, and ceramic because these dolls are made from a special type of paper known as washi (the same paper used for woodblock prints). Using this paper to make things is an art and takes an enormous amount of skill. This, in conjunction with the fact that each doll is hand-painted, makes each one unique and different – so no two daruma dolls are the same.

Where to buy daruma dolls

Ready for some good luck in your life? These dolls can be purchased from various stores and even temples across Japan. Alternatively, buy them online.

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