Daruma Dolls: what are they all about?

Make a wish, paint one eye, and stay hopeful… you may need to paint the other soon.

In Japan, the round, big-eyed and typically red Daruma dolls are a good luck charm and may bring fortune to your life. They are a popular gift for encouragement, and although most of them are acquired at the start of a new year – have you seen a few of them about these last couple of weeks? – you can often see them at other times, too.

Although Daruma dolls greatly vary in their design according to each region and artist, they all boast the same features: two oversized blank eyes that are meant to be painted by the owner.

But wait! Before you get paintbrush-happy, remember to only paint one eye, which will represent the goal you are setting – be it success in school or business, or personal life-related, anything goes. We heard that even some Japanese politicians were captured painting the second eye right after being elected…

That’s right, if your wish comes true and the goal is achieved, you can dig up the painting supplies and fill out the other eye. In the meantime, the one-eyed doll is meant to remind you that the goal still has to be reached, acting, perhaps, as a friendly reminder to stay motivated.

At the end of the year, if your doll has two painted eyes, the dolls are usually taken to the shrine where they were purchased for a traditional burning ceremony, and a new one is bought and taken home.

Maybe you want to bring some good luck to your home or, if you aren’t superstitious, you may simply want to have something to remind you of those New Year resolutions? If you can’t make it to the annual doll market on January 12 in the city of Ome, take a look at a selection of unique specimens over at J Crafts, which carries only dolls which keep local craftspeople and traditions alive, to kickstart 2013 with a little Japanese tradition.

Apparently the vast majority of papier-mache Daruma are made in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, location of Shorinzan Darumaji Temple, as well as the surrounding area, and are known as “Takasaki Daruma”.

For more information on the craftspeople of Japan and to buy some of the products talked about here, visit JCRAFTS.com, an online shop that sells items with engrained Japanese spirit to 120 countries worldwide while aiming to also teach you all about where they come from.

We will be featuring some products from different regions of Japan over the next few weeks so let us know what you think!

Main Image: Alex Allan / Shutterstock.com