だるま (達磨) Daruma are round, and usually red, Japanese traditional dolls with a bearded man’s face painted on it. The eyes are left blank; it is used to keep track of aspirations or goals and motivate you to work hard to accomplish them. The recipient of the doll fills in one eye upon setting the goal, and then the other when it is completed, such that every time you see the one-eyed daruma you think about reaching the goal. Daruma are symbols of perseverance and good luck, which makes them a popular gift of encouragement. Darumas are usually made of papier-mâché and are hollow with weight at the bottom so that they always return to an upright position when tilted over. This characteristic has come to symbolize the ability to have success, overcome adversity, and recover from misfortune.

There is a temple dedicated to daruma near Shuri-jo. It is called Daruma-dera Sairaiin だるま寺西来院. Students come here to offer prayers when exams are near, and I think this one is also popular for families to come pray for safe and easy childbirth. It is a small temple, but full of character. This lovely temple is located behind the Shuri-jo area, and well worth a visit when you are in the area.

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