chaos at the daruma doll market

One day at the end of February, Boss Panda suggested to the two friends that they purchase a daruma doll in order to ask for good fortune for the year ahead. He told them that there would soon be a large daruma doll fair as part of the Gansan-Daishi festival (元三大師大祭) held at Jindai-ji in Chofu. The pair found that the “Daruma-ichi” (だるま市), or daruma doll market would be held on 3rd and 4th March 2014.

On 3rd March, they set off for Chofu, taking the Keio Line Special Express train from Shinjuku station to Chofu (15 minutes, ¥230), and then a no.34 bus from the north side of Chofu Station (bus stop 14). The bus stopped directly outside Jindai-ji temple (深大寺).

The streets surrounding the temple felt more like being in a village to Kiku, something he missed a little sometimes in Tokyo. Lining the streets were many soba noodle shops and the air was filled with the wonderful smell of hot food. The area is known for its soba noodle making and dishes, and the buckwheat flour for the noodles was once ground at a watermill, which still stands today. Although there was a chill in the air, beautiful plum blossoms could be seen on the trees around the gate – a sure sign that spring was underway.

Inside the temple gates, stalls had been set up with shelves full of daruma dolls, all wrapped in clear plastic and priced according to their size. Most were red, but other colours could also be seen, and each stall had its own styles and special display. It was fun to look at the different stalls and make a choice for their doll.

“They look a bit cross”, said Miko, who secretly doubted that anyone who looked so grumpy could bring good fortune. Kiku read a sign which said that after a doll was purchased, the buyer could have a special character written on the doll’s left eye by a monk at the temple. This would signify that their wish had ‘begun’. The doll would then be placed next to a special burner, where it would receive the spirit of Gansan Daishi, a legendary monk of olden times, after whom the temple’s festival is named.

Miko-chan chose a doll that she thought looked a little different to the others, although she wasn’t sure why. She then joined the queue for the monks who were writing the special characters.

As Miko-chan stood in the queue and drew nearer to the signing booth, she began to feel a vibration coming from the doll she was holding, and noticed that the doll’s face had begun to look even more cross. “Um, Kiku-kun, I don’t think this daruma wants to have his eye painted – he seems to be getting rather agitated…” As Kiku leant in to take a closer look at the doll., he could hear the sound of a rapid heartbeat “doki doki…doki doki…doki doki….and it seemed to be getting louder. He stood back to check that the sound was definitely coming from their doll and realised that the ground had started to shake, and there was a deafening rumble….

With an enormous ‘POP!”, the little daruma in Miko-chan’s arms exploded – multiplying into hundreds of dolls flying in all directions, filling the temple grounds and sending panic through the crowd.

Kiku, who had been thrown to one side by the explosion, sat dazed surrounded by dolls, not sure what had just happened. Miko looked around at the daruma filled floor. “I think the poor little one has created copies of himself so he cannot be found – he really didn’t want to be painted on!”

What Miko had noticed though while she stood holding him in the queue before the explosion, was that her doll had a character on his belly that was different to all the other dolls at the market, and that the dolls now surrounding them all had a more complicated character on them than the one she had seen. She scanned the confusion, looking for her doll…

Can you find him in the picture above? His belly kanji is different to all the others!

Miko eventually found the little daruma, who let her pick him up from his hiding place behind a stone lantern. Although still vibrating slightly he had calmed down considerably. She promised him that they would not paint on him if he did not want it, and the daruma’s vibrations suddenly came to an end. “We should call him DokiDoki”, said Kiku, “as that is the sound he makes. You can come and live with us if you would like…” he added warily, waiting for the doll to start shaking again. The doll however remained completely still, and Miko thought she almost saw him smile (but only almost).

The two friends quickly left the temple with their new friend, hurrying down the steps and leaving a chaotic scene behind them. “We didn’t really get the kind of doll Boss Panda suggested,” Kiku mused, “But we have found a new friend – although I hope he doesn’t do that too often!”

And so DokiDoki Daruma came to live at the bamboo bathhouse.