This is a rendering of the following HP, according to a short publication
of the Japanese Daruma Association.
MINI Daruma and a Tiny Encyclopedia
Daruma Practising Zazen for Nine Years in Front
of a Wall
(menpeki kunen 面壁九年)
There are many renderings of Daruma figures, but what they want to express
on the inside is always the same. It is the spirit of Daruma Daishi
(about 5th Cent.), the eighth generation Great Master after Shakyamuni
Buddha, founder of the Zen sect. Legend says that Daruma was born the
third prince in a South Indian kingdom. He was of a sharp mind already
as a child and followed the Great Master Prajnaatara, where he studied
Buddhism intensly and carried on his tradition. He then took off to
China to preach Buddhism, taking the sea road to South China. He was
invited by Emperor Wu and expounded his wisdom for him. But the emperor
did not understand the preachings of Daruma, so Daruma took off again,
crossing the Yangtse River to the east and ended up in the Shaolin Temple
near Loyang. He stood on some reeds when crossing the river, which leads
to the famous iconographic rendering of "Rush-leaf Daruma" (royoo Daruma
Suusan 嵩山 was one of the five great centers of religious learning
in China, so Daruma sat down in a cave at the foot of the mountain to
practise Zazen Meditation for nine years. Later the folks of Edo imagined
this long period of meditation, where his beard grew long, his legs
withered away and his hands shriveled of no-use, rendering into the
tumbler doll as we see him now.
The Zen teachings of Daruma Daishi entered Japan during the Kamakura
period, where he is revered as the First Patriarch of the Zen Sect.
During the middle of the Edo period the famous Zen priest and painter
Hakuin (白隠禅師 1685 - 1768) painted many simple impressive pictures
to teach the townspeople of Edo who could not read.
Here is a picture of my two MINI Daruma in front of the cave, enjoying
the ivory waterfall. One has a little headband and the other carries
a tiny flywhisk.
Daruma as a Drinking Companion (shukoshi
酒胡子) - Daruma as the "Old man who never falls down" (futoo-oo 不倒翁)
and the self-righting Tumbler Doll
(okiagari koboshi 起き上がり小法師)
The origin of papermachee dolls (hariko 張子) comes from China. During
the Tang period (616 - 906) Chinese culture reached a pinacle. During
that time there was the custom of using a wooden doll with a pointed
base, which was like a spinning top. When the doll fell, it pointed
to a person who had then to drink the next cup of ricewine or do a short
performance. (Remember, the cups were really quite tiny.) Times passed
and we reach the Meiji Period of Japan (1868 - 1912). The Chinese Drinking
Companion had changed to a Japanese papermachee doll and was now called
"Old man who never falls down". This old man seemed to get healthier
with the years and was the symbol of long life. Japanese travellers
to China brought the Chinese dolls back as souvenirs, since they were
light and easy to carry. Falling down and tumbling up again, this was
so much fun that it soon turned into a toy for little children - the
Tumbler Doll was born. It seemed to fit the parent's wish for children
to grow up healthy and was a hit on the market. Going through many changes
during time, the old man turned into Daruma as we know the doll today.
From the Tumbler Doll (okiagari koboshi) to the
(okiagari Daruma 起き上がりだるま)
After the Period of the Warring States Japan reached a time of 300 years
of peace under the Tokugawa regime. The Tumbler Dolls of papermachee、first
made in Kyoto, soon reached the new capital of Edo. The inventive townspeople
of Edo painted a big black beard on the face of the old man and a visiting
priest came to say: "Well, if this is not the face of Daruma Daishi
The red robe was the traditional garb of a priest. Getting up after
falling down was taken as a wish getting better for an ill person. It
was also said that the stark red colour would ward off smallpox, so
the red tumbler doll of Daruma would be the best present for a sick
This one blessing was soon followed by others and developed into "Falling
down seven times, getting up eight times" (nanakorobi yaoki 七転八起),
turning into a blessing for many generations of the family line, good
business and others. Thus Daruma got a firm place in the heart of the
Japanese people and seemd to work for the good of people with six heads
and six arms. The faith in him grew steadily and soon the dolls were
sold at the New Years fairs at many local temples and the tradition
to paint one eye for a wish started. You had to buy a new one every
year, so the tradition expanded and we have to thank the founder of
the Zen Sect for all of this.
Here is a MINI Box made of cardboard and cloth, maybe early Meiji period.
2 cm long.
Why is the Tumbler Doll Daruma always of RED color?
Red was the color of the robe of a high-ranking priest and since Daruma
Daishi was the founder of the Zen Sect, he must have worn a red robe.
The patterns painted in gold on the doll represent the Buddhist stole
that a priest wore.
During the Edo Period, Daruma came to be seen by the townspeople as
the healer of smallpox. Nowadays we have medicine to cure this illness,
but in former times children suffered a lot from this and other diseases.
It was believed that RED would ward off diseases, so the Red Daruma
Doll with a threatening face became the preventor and healer of sickness.
Modern medicine has found out that the color red really helps prevent
But the Tumbler Doll Daruma is not always red. In Yamanashi Prefecture
we have a white Daruma as a talisman for the silk industry and the healthy
upbringing of children. (Please refer to the GOSHIKI
story to learn more about color symbols and Daruma.)
Two MINI companions with eyes popping out. One is red indeed and the
other of different mixed colors. They are only 1 cm high.
Why are the eyes of a Daruma for Good Luck (engi
Daruma 縁起だるま) always white?
In the beginning, Daruma dolls always had eyes painted. But in the
Kanto area around Tokyo, Daruma Dolls with white eyes were sold during
the New Years markets. The person who bought it or the priest at the
temple had to paint one eye and cast a wish and after the year was
over and the wish had come true, the other eye was painted and the
doll then burned in a consecrating bonfire at the temple at Years
End. You then got a new one for the New Year and the circle begun
But why did the Daruma dolls not have eyes?
When the priest Daruma sat in a cave for nine years meditating, he
had to fight sleepiness. He thought: "Because I have eyes, my eyelids
fall over them and I start snoozing." So in a bold act he cut off
his eyelids to keep awake. (The eyelashes, which he had thrown away,
took root and turned into the tea bush to give us this wonderful wakening
beverage, as legend knows!)
Another explanation seems more realistic. If you paint eyes on a Daruma
Doll it gets some facial expression and if you are not a good painter,
it might look akward or evil. So to sell your piece, it is a lot easier
not to paint the pupils and leave the blame of facial expression with
the customer when he paints the eyes himself. The next step then was
to cast a wish while painting an eye, then burn it after service time
was over and buy a new one - who says they did not have good business
ideas in Old Edo?! Daruma Dolls were very popular and the habit of
getting a new one every year has stayed with us, as we can see at
the many Daruma Markets during the New Years Season. He is a real
These two are only half a centimeter, made of glass and with real
beard and eyebrows.
Does the Beard and the Eyebrows of Daruma have
The face of a Daruma for Good Luck is usually painted with bold strokes
for beard and eyebrows. The most traditional of this kind, the Takasaki
Daruma (we will talk about him in a separate story) has eyebrows in
the form of a crane and a beard in the form of a tortoise, both symbols
for long life (see story about TSURUKAME).
Another explanation says the beard is like a pine tree, around the eyes
we have bamboo and the nostrils represent the plum, altogether the tree
auspicious symbols for long life (shoochikubai 松竹梅). On the sides
and the belly of the doll, other spells for good luck, good business
and a long family line are painted, so he is the epitome of Good Luck
Symbols and that is maybe why he sold so well to the Edo townspeople.
The eyebrows and the beard are painted carefully with the brush and
some even used real hair to create a beautiful male face (see story
about HIGE DARUMA).
These two are mounted on a board, hight about
1.5 cm. One again wears a flywhisk, the other a headband. They are a
little damaged from long years of service.
Daruma - Does he have Arms and Legs or Not?
A normal tumbler doll of Daruma does not have any arms or legs. This shows
the influence of the real Daruma Daishi sitting in long years of meditation
where his legs shriveled and he cut off his arms since they distracted
him, as legend tells. This little fellow with arms and legs hidden under
his robe had to get up soon after he fell down and so captured the fancy
of the Edo townspeople; he encouraged them and gave them hope for the
future. But we have other dolls of Daruma with hands or legs from Shizuoka,
Nagano or Okayama, which we will explore in a different story.
When and Why did Princess Daruma (Hime Daruma
姫だるま) come to Life?
Daruma Dolls took as model the Indian Priest Daruma Daishi, who was
obviously male. But in some areas of Japan we find a sweetlooking female
Daruma Doll, the Princess Daruma. The most representative of these comes
from Takeda in Kumamoto Prefecture. Here is her story:
Once upon a time more than 300 years ago, there was the young girl Aya,
wed into a Samurai family and thrown out of the house by her unfriendly
mother in law on an icecold winter night. She had to stay in a shed
braving cold and hunger for two days and was rescued by her husband
just in time. The mother in law heard the story and came to see Aya,
tears in her eyes and remorse for her harsh behaviour and from that
day on the family lived happily together.
The diligence of Aya became the model for a tumbler doll in the fashion
of Daruma, since he is the model for diligence too, meditating nine
years in a cave. We also have the story of a curtesan who commented
about Daruam "Well, he was sitting in quiet meditation for nine years,
but we here have to sit and suffer in the Noisy Pleasure Quarters for
more than ten years!" The painter Hanabusa Itchoo made a picture of
the curtesan, which became the model of the Princess Daruma Dolls. (We
will explore HIME DARUMA and SHUNGA DARUMA in different stories, since
there are quite a lot of types.)
The Princess Daruma dolls where also bought as talismans when a baby
girl was born to pray for her healthy upbringing.
Since when was Daruma used during an Election?
Before an election, you can see pictures of the cantidates with a huge
Daruma, painting in one eye while wishing to win the election. On the
belly of Daruma there are the characters: Certain Victory" (hisshoo
必勝). It seems the cantidates need this lucky charm to go through the
election times, it gives us the feeling: Now its election time! But
when was this custom started?
The earliest elections were in 1928 for the House of Representatives.
A papermachee maker of Takasaki made a Daruma called the "God to Win
the Election" and went around selling it. We do not know about the outcome
of the election, but we know that during the election of 1930 the representative
of Nagano City, Mr. Matsumoto, painted an eye on the face of a big Daruma
with the characters "God of Good Luck" and put it up in his campain
center, as was shown in a newspaper article of February 6th in Asahi
Shinbun. And of course, he won the election! This success story made
its way around Japan in no time and the custom was born.
We can only bow to the wonderous power of Daruma to bring good luck