Shinkawa Daruma

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Shinkawa Credit Association Daruma

Unusual white colored Daruma doll (these dolls are more frequently red). The Japanese writing on the front of the doll translates as "big wish," while the writing on the back reads "Shinkawa shinyou kinko" which means "Shinkawa Credit Association." This paper-mache tumbler doll did seemingly take a nasty tumble itself once which did leave a slightly soft spot on the top of the head (please see the detailed photo below). However, the damage is only noticeable upon close inspection, though the area is a bit soft to the touch. Did the doll possibly fall off the shelf of the Shinkawa credit union after the shakeup and rapid decline in the Japanese economy during the decade of the 1990s? One can only guess... Despite this slight damage, the doll remains a splendid example of Japanese paper-mache craft representing one of the most important figures in Zen Buddhist tradition. The damage might actually be viewed as an enhancement if, in fact, you take into consideration the function and purpose of Daruma tumbler dolls within Japanese culture and society.

Height: 6 inches (15.3 centimeters)
Weight: 5.3 ounces (151 grams)

More about Daruma

"Life falls down seven times, yet gets up eight..." This popular Japanese proverb is commonly associated with the Indian Buddhist sage Daruma. Daruma is the more familiar name of the historical Buddhist monk Bodhidarma, who lived sometime during the fifth or sixth century AD. Daruma is credited with the founding of the Zen sect of Buddhism, which he is reputed to have introduced into China during his travels there. Some of the legends surrounding this figure include tales that he achieved enlightenment or satori only after meditating in a cave for seven years without blinking or moving his eyes. Another story tells that his enlightenment occurred within a temple in China where he spent his seven years sitting in a room staring at a wall. Apparently at some point during his long meditation Daruma became so overcome with fatigue that he cut off his eyelids in anger and tossed them to the ground. These are reputed to have then sprouted into China's first green tea plants!

It is said that Daruma's long meditation caused his arms and legs to wither and fall off, leaving him as an armless, legless and eyelidless (yet enlightened) Bodhidarma... The Japanese love this story and admire Daruma for his spirit and determination, and each new year many Japanese will buy a paper-mache Daruma tumbler doll such as the one offered here in order to enlist its services in helping them persevere towards their own goals or achievements. The dolls are sold with unpainted eyes, allowing the new owner to paint in one eye to symbolize the start of a new goal or venture.

The doll is then placed in a prominent place within the home or at work in order to remind the owner to keep after their aim. Japanese students especially utilize Daruma to motivate them with their studies; placing a one-eyed Daruma before them on their desk as motivation to work hard and make the grade. Only after the goal is achieved will the owner then paint in the second eye, symbolizing a realized goal. Daruma's which have completed their jobs as perseverance role models are normally then brought to a temple to be burned during special ceremonies set aside for this purpose. The last images below are various representations of Daruma found at a Zen temple near our home in Japan.

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