When purchasing a daruma, one cannot simply ignore the evident artistry of the painter behind its notable face. A quality daruma will possess two distinct features: its eyebrows that look like two cranes facing each other, and its mustache that is embodied by two turtles — creatures known to live long lives.
However, the daruma is by no means a made-up character. It is based on Bodhidharma, a figure known to have introduced Zen Buddhism to China and subsequently to Japan. It is said that Bodhidharma spent so many years deep in meditation that his arms and legs fell off his body, which is where the daruma gets its round, limbless shape.
The doll itself, made of papier-mâché material with a weight attached on the bottom, is designed to stand back upright after tumbling over as a symbol of one’s determination. It embodies this famous Japanese proverb: “nana korobi yaoki”, which means “fall down seven times, stand up eight.”
As a wish is fulfilled, the second eye is painted in and the wish is written at the back before it is returned to the temple it was blessed at for the annual daruma burning ceremony right after New Year’s Day.