Foundation day in Japan is the 11th February and each year the nearby town of Shirakawa holds a Daruma Festival on that day.
A Daruma is round doll that is usually made of papier-mâché and is hollow inside, but weighted at the bottom. So if they fall over they in general “get up” again.
The eyes of Daruma are blank when sold. The recipient of the doll fills in one eye upon setting themselves a goal, then the other upon fulfilling it. The sight of the one eyed Daruma is supposed to motivate you to succeed! Or when you fall, to get back up again as the Daruma does!
The one eyed Daruma watches you mournfully, as you scoff a chunk of chocolate cake when your goal was to lose weight and then you feel guilty and put the cake down and go for a walk !! Really that’s how it works!!
Mostly the Daruma are red in colour, but there were other colours too, that all have different areas of influence – romance, health, money etc and a multitude of sizes. The main street was packed with Daruma stalls prices ranging from a couple of hundred yen to several thousand.
Shirakawa Daruma festival attracts over 150,000 people. It’s one of the biggest in Japan and all the Daruma are made locally according to the website I went to.
There are lots of food and stalls spread through the town to cater for all these visitors. The main streets of the town are blocked off for the 700 or so stalls to line the pavements. The station is close by and there’s loads of parking, so it’s a pretty easy festival to get in and out of.
There were hundreds of food stalls as well, everything from Okonomiyaki to Iced painted bananas and hot sake if you knew where to look! It’s a fun day, albeit a little cold as it is still pretty wintry here.