Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts / [Daruma] | カーサ ブルータス Casa BRUTUS

Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts / [Daruma]

Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. We enter 2019 with the first foray of the KASHIYUKA Shop’s second year, and it took her to Takasaki, in Gunma prefecture. There she visited a maker of Takasaki Daruma, a traditional talisman that invites good fortune and dispels evil.

In its very eyebrows and whiskers, the Takasaki Daruma bears the auspicious visages of the crane and the turtle, traditional Japanese symbols of good fortune; and it’s adorned, as well, with human hopes and wishes inscribed in gold. It came into being when local doll crafters in the Joshu region attempted to imitate a Daruma figure first seen in Edo, as ancient Tokyo was named, made to cast out the scourge of disease in the city. Here at studio Daruma no Kouki you can see the dolls in their pre-painted stage. This is one of the few studios left in Takasaki that fabricates and finishes the entire doll.
What do we want to bring into our lives to start a new year? Thinking about this brought the urge to visit a place that produces things that invite good fortune, and prompted my journey to a Takasaki Daruma factory. The Takasaki Daruma originated in the Toyo-oka district of Takasaki city in Gunma prefecture. It’s known for its bright red color and roly-poly form. It’s sometimes called the Engi (luck) Daruma or the Fuku (fortune) Daruma.
Purchase No. 11【 Daruma】 Entrusted with hope for good fortune in the New Year, the Takasaki Daruma. The 8-maru Fuku Daruma is 33 cm in height.
“You fill in the left eye with ink while declaring your wish. Later, when the wish is realized, you paint in the other eye.” “The basic idea is that you buy one a year, and each year a slightly bigger one than last.” Thus, proper Daruma protocol was explained to me by Mr. Takamasa Asahi, president of Daruma no Kouki. Outside the studio unfinished Daruma figures aligned themselves dutifully on the shelves in rows of stunning white. Though they haven’t yet got any facial expression at all, something about them steadily endears them to you.

First, I examined the makeup of the material. A mold is inserted into a recycled paper solution, the water is drawn off, and the vacuum-molded paper form is left to sun-dry for a week. So the Takasaki Daruma turns out to be made of paper; easily hoisting one, I was amazed at how lightweight they are.
Just after coating, the figures look like candy apples.
Drawing eyebrows in the image of a crane. No first draft, just a powerful stroke of the brush.
Just after coating, the figures look like candy apples.
Drawing eyebrows in the image of a crane. No first draft, just a powerful stroke of the brush.
“It started as a sideline for farmers during the off season. A brisk, strong, dry wind blows here in the northern Kanto region; I guess that sort of climate lends itself to the making of these Daruma,” says Mr. Asahi.

When the form is completely dried, it’s fully coated with a paste of glue mixed with calcium carbonate powder made from clam shells. After coloring the body in either typical red or Japanese vermillion we arrive at the highlight of the process, the painting of the face. The brush is lifted, brimming with ink, and there is one, swift, unhesitating stroke. A single gesture, with no outline! I’m told that if one stops to think, the momentum is lost, the lines lack energy. When the face is drawn on, these formerly cute, cherubic Daruma suddenly display a powerful presence.