Japanese Traditions: Daruma

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Have you ever come across the above figurine and wondered why or why not it typically has one eye on it or no eyes? This figure, called a daruma (dah-rue-mah), is used when hoping to achieve a goal, or in making a wish.

The daruma is modeled after the founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhiharma, but obtained its current form from the Temple of Daruma in the Japanese city of Takasaki. Legend claims that the temple used the daruma as a good luck charm to ward off evil spirits. The charms are said to be good for one year.

The figure is made in a round shape so it will always return to its upright position. This characteristic is meant to symbolize the ability to overcome any challenge, adversity, or misfortune. The figurine usually is made from paper mache.

The color red is thought to come from Buddhism, but also to have some association to overcoming sickness. Red is also associated with luck.

Eyes are typically painted onto the figure once you have a goal in mind. It is thought to signify keeping your eye or focus on a single goal. The second eye is drawn on once the goal has been obtained. It signifies being enlightened to the goal.

In Japan, the daruma has traditionally been brought back to the temple where it was purchased at the end of the year and is then burned. This tradition occurs after New Year’s Day.