The Japanese New Years Break ended and with it the throngs of people pouring through temple grounds. However, before it ended I made a visit to the local Haijima Daruma Fair. I have noticed Daruma dolls, also known as Dharma dolls, at temples and even gifted one but this visit brought more understanding about the doll and its cultural significance. The doll is a papier-mache hollow figure modeled after the "Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism." The dolls are typically a red painted bearded man (Dharma) but vary in their price, color, and even actual hair or facial expression details. I always believed the doll was a toy but had it explained to me in a greater detail at the fair.
The dolls is purchased blind if you will, meaning there are no irises painted on the eyes. They Daruma are considered a powerful talisman for good luck and used to encourage this luck throughout the year. First, you craft a wish or goal followed by painting the first iris on the eye. Once your goal or promise is achieved you may then complete the Daruma and paint in his other eye. The larger the Daruma the more important, powerful or difficult the goal and vice a versa. At the end of the year people bring their completed dolls to the temple grounds to burn them and to purchase the new luck for their goal or resolution.
I know many people who love making to-do lists and feel great satisfaction crossing items of the list once accomplished. I even know people who write achievements on the list they already finished for the sheer satisfaction of crossing it off. If I am honest, I am both of those people. The dolls were not my goals nor my wishes going into the fire but there was something much more visceral and symbolic than my extra lines crossed through a to-do list. I like the idea of a physical manifestation of your goals to keep you visually accountable to your intentions. As a result, I picked up a Daruma for myself and already gave him a wink for this year. I will be planning my own bonfire this time next year on a Dolomite camping trip perhaps heres to him going up in flames.
If your interested in creating your own conflagration of achievement I know my buddy at Unique Japan can ship the dolls worldwide.