Have you ever seen this round, red doll? In recent years, Daruma is popular as a souvenir to foreign countries because of its cute round shape and slightly scary unique face. In Japan, Daruma has been familiar to people as a fortune item from a long time ago. Even kids in Japan are familiar with Daruma.
You may wonder why this doll with a bit of a scary face is loved by people in Japan. What is Daruma exactly? Human being, monster, god?
We will introduce the history of Daruma and a very unique temple that is dedicated to Daruma in Kyoto.


Round Daruma doll based on a real person

Daruma is modeled after the founder of Zen Buddhism, Daruma Daishi who spread Zen from India to China.
It is said that he lost his hands and legs after hard training, thus there are no hands and legs on the Daruma doll. After various hardships, Priest Daruma always got back up after he was knocked down, and that was how the Daruma doll we now know which wobbles, but never falls, was born.

Wishing for good fortune for your family -Red gets rid of bad luck-

Since long ago, Japanese people have had daruma in their homes to ward off evil and also as a symbol of wishing for success and achieving efforts. Daruma’s red color represents happiness. Have you ever seen red torii gates in shrines? In Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is famous. Red is considered the special color in Japan and it is believed that it opposes demons. It is also a lucky color, so it’s perfect for Daruma.
Some people say its red color shows Daruma’s passion to overwhelm hardships. That is why people believe daruma protects their family and kids. There is another theory that the clothes which Daruma Daishi wore were red.
In recent years, there are various colors of Daruma, and each has a special meaning.
Black daruma:Surplus
Yellow Daruma:Good luck with money
Blue Daruma:Calm
Green Daruma:Good health
Why don’t you get a daruma doll and pray for the good luck of your family and children?

Paint the eyes with your kids !

You will see some daruma without eyes but don’t worry! It’s supposed to be that way!
In Japanese, there is an expression, “Me ga deru.” “Me” means sprout and “deru” means come out so the meaning of that saying is, “getting a result”. Also, there is a Zen teaching of “absolute self-reliance”. For these reasons, people draw the daruma’s black eyes by themselves wishing for the good result. Or, there is another way, to draw black eyes when your wish is fulfilled.

For example, you can use a Daruma doll for a promise with your children. If your children can keep the promise for half a year, and to remind them to keep the promise, you paint black eyes on the daruma. Your kids will remember the promise every time they see the daruma. It is recommended to use it as an activity after your trip so that you can remember your time in Japan.

Japanese children love Daruma

Japanese kids love Daruma because there are lots of games and toys with a motif of Daruma in Japan.

1 Picture book “Darumasan” series
There are no kids who don’t know this picture book in Japan! It is one of the most popular first books for kids. There are few words so it is also good to study Japanese. You can find these books at any bookstore.

Japanese famous picture book

2 Daruma Otoshi
It’s a traditional game in Japan. Japanese children love this game. There are some colored blocks, and one of them has a daruma-face painted on it. The game is played by using a small hammer to hit each colored block from bottom to the top. If you knock the tower over, you lose. If only the daruma is remaining, you win the game!

Japanese traditional game; daruma otoshi
Daruma otoshi is very popular game for kids

3 Statue game, “Daruma san ga koronda”
This is a very popular game in Japan. There are similar statue games are all over the world, such as “Red Light Green Light” in the US and “Grandmother’s Footsteps” in the UK.

A temple which enshrines Daruma is here in Kyoto! There are also lots of activities for children!

If you want to see a lot of Daruma in Kyoto, we recommend Daruma Temple in Enmachi. It is said that there are 8,000 daruma there!
If you are tired from the crowds, why don’t you go to the quiet Zen temple and meditate? In addition, there are many things in the shape of daruma everywhere, so it is fun to look for daruma with your children!
At Daruma Temple, we (Kyoto With Kids) provide some activities in which both parents and kids can enjoy the history and culture of Kyoto. Please check our website.

windows in the shape of daruma
How many things in the shape of daruma can you find?

【Visiting time】9:00 to 16:30
【Seeing fee】Adult:300 yen
【Phone number】 075-841-7878
【Tourist spot near Darumadera-temple] Kinkakuji, Kitano Tenmangu, Nijo Castle