Culture

What is a Daruma Doll? And How Do You Use it?

Have you ever seen those little red dolls with only one eye filled in? Have you ever wondered why they’re such a big deal in Japan? Well my friends, they are called Daruma Dolls and they can make your wish come true! Just what is a Daruma Doll and how do you use one? I’d like to tell you all about it!

There’s a specific method you use with the 達磨 (daruma) when you want to make a wish for good health or success in during the year.

And the doll you decide to choose can change depending on the particular color of it as well. But why? I’ll tell you that too!

What’s more, there’s a lot of symbology embedded in the design of Daruma Dolls that help you to stay focused and keep positive. Let’s take a look at them now!

How to Use a Daruma Doll to Make Your Wish Come True

When you buy a Daruma Doll, you’ll notice that both of the eyes are blank!

It might look a little creepy at first, but that will just be extra motivation for you since your goal is to fill both eyes in.

How it works is that you decide on something that you want: A wish, a goal, etc.

Then you fill in one of the two eyes to signify that you’ve decided what you want to accomplish or attain.

Some doll will even let you write it down on a blank heart on the back of the doll, so you can review it every day.

Then you get to work on achieving the goal you’ve set for yourself, and once you’ve accomplished it, you then get to fill in the second eye to signify success!

While the Daruma Doll is in the “one eye” phase of it’s existence, you will want to put it somewhere that you will see it every day.

It’s a daily reminder of what you told yourself you wanted to do or get.

But there’s more to it than simply that! What if you could increase your luck by picking a doll that’s specific to the goal?

That’s where the different colors come into play!

What Do the Different Colors Signify for Each of the Dolls?

Red is the primary color that Daruma Dolls come in.

But there are actually five colors of the Daruma that are considered “standard colors” and they all signify a different type of wish:

  1. The Red Daruma = Luck & Good Fortune.
  2. The Purple Daruma =Health & Longevity.
  3. The Yellow Daruma =Security & Protection.
  4. The Gold Daruma =Wealth & Prosperity.
  5. The White Daruma =Love & Harmony.

I’ve seen additional colored dolls before (like pink) but these above five are the traditional ones.

Which color do you think you personally should use to have your wish granted?

Maybe get one of each!

What is the Hidden Symbology Behind the Design of Daruma?

The Daruma Doll is based off of Bodhidharma, who founded the Zen sect of Buddhism. This also explanes why the primary color for them is red, since that’s the color of the priest’s robes.

When you look at the doll, you notice a few things:

One of them is that it has a round shape. This is because the bottom of them are weighted so that, even if they get knocked around, they will always come back to an upright position.

Does that remind you of any Japanese proverbs? How about this one:

  • 七転び八起き
    nana korobi ya oki

This translates as “fall down seven times, rise up eight” and what it really means is that no matter how many times you get knocked down in life, you will always rise again!

Another thing you will notice is the design of the doll’s eyebrow hair and check hair.

The eyebrow hair is in the shape of a crane, which is a sign of good luck in Japanese culture since they are believed to live for 1,000 years.

The check hair is in the shape of a tortoise, which were believed could live for 10,000 years! Hence, they are known as a sign of longevity.

Those two animal combined 鶴亀 (tsuru kame) are used together in yet another Japanese proverb:

  • 鶴は千年亀は万年
    tsuru wa sen nen, kame wa man nen

This means “The Crane lives a thousand years. The Tortoise, ten thousand.”

Hence, these animals came to symbolize a long, and fortunate life for people. That’s why they appear (though hidden) on the Daruma Dolls.

And finally, in addition to the hidden syombology we’ve just gone over, there is also a kanji or two written on belly of the doll for even more meaning!

It can be lots of different kanji depending on the circumstances, but the most common one is 福 (fuku) which of course means “good fortune” in Japanese.

These things are packed to the brim with good luck!!!

Another common word to see on them is 必勝 (hisshou) which means “certain victory” in Japanese.

Pretty cool!

When You’re All Done, You BURN Them?


| Image credit: Hide-sp |

There is a yearly ceremony called だるま供養 (daruma kuyou) which generally takes place soon after New Year’s Day.

At this time, all the Daruma Dolls that were bought in the previous year are brought to the temple to be ceremoniously burned together by the monks.

This is done in order to set the Daruma’s spirit (called a kami) free by releasing it from the earth.

It is also a way of letting go of the past and looking forward to the future year.

Which means once you’ve decided on your wish, you’ve only got one year for it to happen!!!

But if you didn’t get it, then don’t worry about it too much because it will be renewed for the new year.

Once you get another doll of course, 😉 !!!

Got a Goal or a Wish? Better Get One of These Dolls!

I think it’s a pretty cool tradition that they do over in Japan.

It makes goal setting a pretty fun event since you get to color in a doll’s eyes, write on it’s back, and then put it on your desk or dresser all year to remind you of what you want.

Even if you don’t necessarily make it, you still get to see it go up in flames at the start of the next year!

What can I say? I like fire!

Have you guys ever used a Daruma Doll before?

What color would you want to get if you bought a new one? Let me know!

4 Comments

  • GiuliaB

    Nick,I think I have just found the Christmas present for my step daughter, who is truly much in need of good luck and fortune!
    On a serious note, I can see so much fascinating symbolism in these dolls, that it makes your heart cry when you find out they are normally burned with the beginning of every new year. Yet, I can get that act even more than the western gesture of chucking old plates out of the windows. A doll full of meanings versus a plate? Personally, I’d go for the Japanese doll 🙂

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah that’s so true! I was also a little shocked when I learned that it’s traditional to burn them at the beginning of a new year.

      I guess it’s just one of those cultural things. But I guess it would be kind of a fun way to come together as a community and celebrate the passing of another year, whether or not you were able to get what you wanted with the doll.

      What I really like is how there are different colors associated with different types of luck, so when you see someone with a White Daruma Doll for example, you can think to yourself, “Oh this person is looking for a special someone in their life.”

      Little insights that you can glean about your friend these dolls are priceless! 

  • Phil

    Wow, I didn’t know much about Daruma dolls. By the way, I remember giving my daughter an American doll. And she didn’t like it. She said it too bland and too much sex for a doll. I totally agree with her. These daruma dolls are on a whole new level. Great article!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Oh yeah, my little sisters are always going on about those American Girl Dolls. Every time I ask them what they want for either Christmas or their birthdays the say the same thing, “American Girl Doll!”

      But man are they expensive!!! I’m talking hundreds of dollars here!

      So then I’m all like, “It’s family discount time. What else would you like?” lol.

      But no really, I had seen these Daruma Dolls quite often in places like anime, manga, and even on the cover of a Japanese album 達磨林檎 that I bought from ゲスの極み乙女.

      Pretty cool stuff!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *