こんにちは！ Yesterday (Wednesday) was the annual Tatebayashi Daruma Festival! It happens every January, and I have to say, I think I enjoy these winter festivals much more than the summer ones – there’s less sweating and more warm, delicious food!
A daruma doll is a round, hollow doll based off of the Bodhidharma from Buddhism. As it’s been explained to me, you buy a daruma, set yourself a goal you’d like to achieve by next year, and fill in one of the eyes. That year, as you strive to achieve your goal, the daruma sits on the shelf as a sign of support – he has no legs, and so he can’t fall over and fail, and if you bump him he’ll just right himself. In this way, he represents overcoming adversity!
After a year, if you’ve achieved your goal, you fill in the other eye (some people say it’s to show that your daruma has achieved enlightenment). Then you take him back to the temple from which you bought him, burn him, and buy a new one for the new year!
A funny aside – on the day of the daruma festival, I ate lunch with my first graders. One kid asked if I was married. I said, “Yes, I am!” And the teacher said, “Danna-san imasu!” or “She has a husband!” But the kid next to me misheard her and thought she said “Daruma-san imasu!” and the kids all had a good laugh. Coincidentally, Paul, my husband, was a daruma for Halloween last year:
Also, apparently you’re supposed to buy progressively bigger daruma each year. We didn’t know this at the time, so we just bought a nice big one…
The festival began at 3:00 and went until around 9:00. It’s held on the street I use to come home from 8sho, so I just met Paul and my friends Katie and Kayla midway!
We pre-gamed with some taiyaki:
The entire street was blocked off. We came in at the far end, where they were setting up for a performance by the Menkoi Girls, Tatebayashi’s local girl idol group.
The daruma were at the opposite end of the street. We walked through many, many tempting, beautiful food stands:
There was yakimanju, which is fried manju – manju being a delicious ball of flour, rice powder, and buckwheat. This stuff is usually covered with a miso sauce, which at first taste can be very strange to the western palette; but if you give it a chance, it’ll grow on you!
There were so many sweets! Candies:
Beautiful concoctions of chocolate, strawberries, and cream:
There were these beauties, manju with sweet fillings like chocolate, cream, custard, azuki beans, etc. Thanks, Kayla, for buying one and letting me have a bite!
Also, I have never seen so many cute chocolate-covered bananas (called chocobanana) in my life!
Man, that last picture, those two pikachu…
There were a lot of game booths where kids could win prizes:
There were a ton of my students at the festival, and they all said hello! I felt like a celebrity! I was pleasantly surprised by all the hellos – usually my kids too shy to even look at me if they run into me outside of school. I also saw some of my students who are now in middle school, which was awesome!
A bunch of boys, in love with the card stand with toy guns.
There were innumerable takoyaki stands (fried octopus balls):
I even spotted one ikayaki stand (fried squid):
There were basic yakisoba stands (fried soba noodles):
And there were fancy yakisoba stands, with copious amounts of cabbage, meat, and eggs!
The Japanese love their mayonnaise that comes in strangely unappealing plastic bottles. These mayonnaise companies must rely on Japan’s deep love for mayonnaise, ’cause they sure as hell don’t put any money into the packaging.
Tons of yakiniku (fried meat):
And of course, the staple food of Japanese festivals – karaage! Fried chicken!
We also came across an interesting little booth selling toothpick holders / spice holders:
And at long last, after passing glorious food stand after glorious food stand, we reached the daruma!
This is one place where we had to haggle the prices. Paul seemed to enjoy it! (I’m rubbish at haggling. Also, Katie, I’ve been hanging out with you too much, I’m becoming Australian.)
Tons and tons of daruma!
There were even cats!
The most common daruma colour is red, but there are other colours to to signify different meanings:
According to this chart, yellow is money, purple is relationships, gold is for test results, blue is work, red is general luck, pink is love, white is happiness, green is health, silver is family, and black is to get rid of bad luck (I think). They’ve also got feng shui instructions for each daruma, too, so you know which direction to point them!
Katie got a cute little daruma!
We walked back the length of the street to get our bikes and go home. As we left, we got to see a little bit of a drumming performance!
Alas, I did not have much money to buy all of the food I wanted…but it was fun to admire!
Until next time! またね！