[This is the first of a weekly series.]
The eyes of the Japanese Daruma doll are left intentionally blank when made. The owner will then make a wish while painting-in the pupil of one eye (typically the right eye). When the wish has been fulfilled, the owner will paint-in the remaining pupil. The Daruma doll is typically displayed in a high visible location in the home or workplace – as a reminder of a goal or wish unfulfilled. The doll’s low center of gravity makes it naturally self-righting when toppled – supporting its association with persistence and optimism.
The Daruma doll – with grim countenance, moustace and beard, and absence of limbs – is based upon the historical figure BodhiDharma: the 6th century founder of Zen Buddhism (the Japanese name Daruma comes from Dharma). According to legend, BodhiDharma meditated for nine years while staring at a cave wall – he lost the use of his arms and legs to atrophy (thus the absence of arms and legs on the Daruma doll). He is known for his distinctive beard and moustache, and a harsh temper.
In recent culture: this figure was a design inspiration for Japanese Unazukin (”yes-no”) dolls and an evil cyborg Daruma appears in the action miniseries <kick-ass>”Afro Samurai“</kick-ass> (note: instead of using an Apple laptop, he appears to be using an “Eggplant”).