Meet Daruma.

Daruma is a traditional Japanese talisman of good luck, often associated with a specific goal. He’s quite a popular little man. I was introduced to him early on in my time living in Japan because I lived only a 30-minute train ride from Takasaki, which produces the majority of daruma dolls and is lauded as daruma’s birthplace. The temple grounds are a lovely place, housing not just the daruma-dera but also a large garden area filled with sakura trees and a bell that is rung to promote world peace.

the main daruma-dera of Shorinzan

The way daruma works is that you, first, obtain one, often by purchasing it at a temple – but I once bought one in the Takasaki train station, as they’re a very big souvenier from that area. Once you have your daruma, you decide on a goal you want to accomplish by the end of the year. Then you paint one of his eyes, just a simple black dot. The idea is that you are promising to give daruma his full vision after you have reached your goal (with his helpful good luck, naturally), because once your goal is fulfilled, you paint in the other eye. While you are working toward your goal, place daruma in a place where you can see him every day, so that he can remind you of what you want to accomplish.

Traditionally, after you’ve met your goal, you take daruma back to the temple whence you bought him and have him dedicated and burnt. This is a way to express your gratitude to the daruma, by returning him home and allowing his energy to be released in the ritual burning. In the picture above, all of those daruma piled at the front of the temple are waiting for the New Year ceremony in which they’ll be burned.

I have been wanting to do my daruma goal-setting for a while now, but I really haven’t had the opportunity yet. For one thing, my unused daruma is stuck in storage somewhere, in one of half a dozen boxes, and I’m not particularly in the mood to go through everything looking for him. For another, I’m not sure what I would wish to accomplish. There’s so much I want from this year: to lose weight, to finish a novel, to become pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy, for Geordie to get a job that he loves and will support us. Of course, of those options,  only two are actually goals that I could set for myself (the weight-loss and the novel). Part of Daruma’s power is that he serves as a reminder of the goal you set, so that you are always mindful of it – as well as of daruma’s support. As soon as I do find him, I know I’ll be setting him up with a goal (as soon as I decide which one!) and using his encouragement to help me get there.

And, yes, while I don’t consider myself superstitious in any way, I do like the idea of a daruma looking out for me. Or, at the very least, being around for me to see him and remind myself of what I want to accomplish. Two years ago, I set up a daruma in my apartment in Moriya, and by the end of the year, my efforts had borne fruit. And I’m quite pleased with the results; I got both my husband and my daughter out of the deal, a greater reward than I could ever have imagined.