Daruma Festival

Kita-in Temple hosts many events through the year, but the one that caught my eye the most was the Daruma Festival, held on January 3rd of each year. I could already see hints of the impending Daruma flood on the evening of December 31st as temple-goers flooded the main building to offer prayers. Touted as the second-largest festival in town after the Kawagoe Festival, I was expecting great things from the Daruma Festival when I visited on the third.




Daruma work like this: You buy one of the appropriate color for your wish. You then think of your wish and color in one of the eyes on your daruma to signify the wish. Once that wish or goal has been achieved, you color in the other eye and voila! You have successfully completed your daruma. It’s modeled to look like Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism.

The colors are somewhat new: To help their financial situations, temple try to commercialize on the popularity of daruma around the New Year’s, and as such, many different colors and variations have arisen. At the Daruma Festival, I received a handy how-to for each of the colors, which I have dutifully (and poorly; please comment if I messed this up!) translated in the table below:

Pink Good for love and marriage
White Good for happiness
Green Good for health
Silver Good for the home or family
Black Good for keeping away bad luck or misfortune
Yellow Good for security and protection
Purple Good for friendship and bonds, possibly self-improvement (couldn’t get a good translation for this one…)
Gold Good for money or wealth
Blue Good for success in work
Red (the go-to for everyone) Good for luck and fortune (a favorite of shopkeepers, I’m told!)

Please note that the meaning can change based on region and even from shop to shop. I did my best with the chart, but again, I’m no expert!

Kita-in Daruma Festival



Since it is on the third of the year, and many are still visiting temples to do their first prayer of the year, the temple was packed to the seams with people. To be fair, most were in a massive queue to visit the temple and pray, but that crowd really took up most of the space, giving the Daruma festival a very tight feeling. You can find usual festival fare to snack upon if you are feeling peckish.

Daruma - Two Second Street - www.twosecondstreet.com
My tiny Daruma. Such dramatic lighting!

Daruma prices vary: The super tiny Daruma (like the ones I bought) cost around 400 yen each, which mid-sized ones (like the dog daruma) cost closer to 1500 yen. From there, for larger daruma, you are looking at a couple thousand yen each. The largest ones can be upwards of 40,000 yen (approaching $400 dollars, depending on the exchange rate).

I didn’t end up spending much time there (the crowds really incentivized me to get in and get out) but I’m glad I got my Daruma and got to experience a little of the madness. If you have time, want a nice Daruma, and don’t mind the crowds, this would be a great place to get one! They are a great motivational tool as well: You see them looking at you every day and you are reminded of the hard work you must put into achieving your goal or dream. Traditional motivational techniques at their finest!


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