A whole land dedicated to Daruma? Yes, yes there is! Of course, I had to go out to Shirakawa in Fukushima to check out this newly built establishment!
Part One: The Workshop
The building used to be exclusively a daruma workshop, but in 2022, it became more: It became Daruma Land! The workshop remains, and you can see traditional craftsmen making daruma at specified times throughout the day. I was there a bit late, so I missed the craftsmen, but you can see their process right out there in the open: How they form the shapes, how they paint them, and how they hang them out to dry like technicolor grapes growing up towards the heavens.
There is also a small hallway with daruma history, including a super old mold for daruma that they recovered from the region. There’s also a bit of a display of some really artistic daruma, as well as pop culture daruma for you to see and enjoy. There’s even a photo op with the daruma mascot of Daruma Land! It’s all in Japanese, but with a bit of help from Google Translate, you can get a general idea and get a basic understanding of what’s going on with each of the displays.
Part Two: The Shop
The shop is where all of your Daruma dreams come true: Here, you can see just a wild assortment of daruma for you to purchase. They have a whole section of daruma based on the Chinese zodiac, daruma for popular baseball teams (mainly just the Hawks), big daruma, small daruma, daruma based on popular anime characters, and daruma of a wide variety of colors.
There’s also a massive daruma gatchapon machine looming in the back of the room. For a mere 500 yen, you can get a numbered ticket that is associated with a certain prize. I put my luck to the test and got the common prize. I had my choice between a small standard daruma (valued at about 750 yen), a small plastic daruma display set (valued around 800 yen), or a ticket to play their daruma race game. I opted for the daruma display after much deliberation, but the daruma game ticket tempted the woman behind me in line, and she exchanged her ticket for a chance to play the game.
In the back, next to the daruma gatchapon, is a massive screen for an old-school-looking daruma game. 8-bit beats are pumped throughout the room to entice customers to wander over and give it a go. In rows, there are tablets connected to the game that you use as remote controls. Everyone plays concurrently, but for the lady behind me, that meant only she was playing.
The first phase involved designing your own daruma. You have a set amount of time and you can paint your daruma however you see fit. The woman went with a lovely yellow daruma. Then, your design is pasted onto one of the runners on screen, where you have to tap the run buttons on your controller alternately. So, you tap left, right, left, right, and so on until your daruma crosses the finish line. BUT! It’s a game of Red Light Green Light, so only if the girl at the end of the screen isn’t looking should you try running. If you goof, your daruma eats dirt and stays down for a short while. Watching the woman figure this out was hilarious: She fell down about eight times before she realized what she was doing wrong. Even with all her mistakes, she still took first place and was awarded a clear folder, a printed copy of her daruma design, and a nice certificate.
This is a nice place to spend a bit of time if you’re into the craft and are in the area. I’d highly recommend stopping by if you’re not too far away! You can get yourself a really nice, high-quality daruma while you’re there. I bought myself a daruma that’s painted to look like a bowl of ramen. Yum Yum!
Are there any craft-inspired lands you’re aware of? Let us know in the comments below!