For the last nine months there has been a funny little red blob of a doll watching over my classroom. He’s fat, he’s got a white painted face, good luck kanji, and only one eye. He looks just like this!
This little, or in some cases large, doll is something that Japanese people traditionally buy when they have a goal or wish in mind. He is modeled after Bodhidarhma and he represents a determined spirit that never gets up. Legend says that Bodhidahrma sat so long in meditation that his arms and legs fell off. That’s where the traditional round weeble wobble shape comes from. You’d have to be pretty dedicated to sit long enough for your limbs to just fall off.
After they buy their daruma, they hold their doll, think of their wish, and then color in one eyed. Only one eye? Yes. That blank staring eye is there to remind you that you have something you’re working toward. Only when you achieve that goal, do you get to color it in. Then you need to put him somewhere out in the open where you can see him and he can see you. If you put him in a box somewhere forgotten, he’s not going to take you seriously.
That brings me to that quote nestled at the top of my post. In Japanese it would be pronounced Nana korobi naoki, or, to us, fall down seven times get up eight. This idea is represented by the round never fall over shape of the daruma. It reminds us that even when things get hard we need to keep trying.
What if I don’t achieve my goal Mrs. Emeigh? Hopefully someone theoretically just asked that question. If not, I’m answering anyway. Whether you get to color that eye in or not your daruma is going to suffer the same fate. The 16th and 17th of February is a traditional time for you take your daruma back to the shrine it came from to be burned. If you don’t know where it came from, you can take it to any shrine. If you don’t have a shrine, then you can just burn it yourself. This is a way of letting go of goals you didn’t achieve and accepting that you might need to work harder next time, or simply sending off some grateful energy if you did.
My own personal daruma is patiently waiting in a packing box for the end of July when he too can have a second eye. I do intend to let him out once in a while to let him breath. Now, Mrs. Emeigh, we already know you’re going to Japan. Why are you waiting until the end of July to give your daruma another eye?
Great question imaginary asker you are so very awesome. The reason I am going to wait until the end of July is that I won’t actually be getting to Japan until the end of July. Call me ancy, nervous, anal, cautious, or anything else you can think of. I don’t want to paint in that eye until my feet touch soil in Japan. When I get to Narita airport in Tokyo, I’ll be coloring it in and taking a gleeful picture of my triump.
Only 48 more days to go little dude til you get that new eye! At this point, we are going to conveniently forget that eventually he gets burned. Shh! He might be listenening!