Author: Richard Perkins
Photos/Videos Taken: 2020/11/02
Address: 296 Hanadakamachi,
Part of the Ōbaku sect of Buddhism, 少林山達磨寺 (shōrinzan darumaji) is a Buddhist temple in the city of Takasaki in Gunma prefecture. It’s said that there was once a Buddhist temple dedicated to 観世音菩薩 (kanzeonbosatsu), the goddess of mercy, around the Usui river in Gunma prefecture. One year, the river flooded. From the flooded river villagers nearby pulled out an old tree, a tree which they deemed sacred, so they placed it in the Buddhist temple dedicated to Kanzeonbosatsu as an offering to the gods. In the year 1680, an ascetic (someone perusing self-discipline and refraining from indulgence for religious purposes) by the name of Ichiryōkoji took the tree that was deemed sacred and carved it into the Bodhidharma (a Buddhist monk from India known for spreading Zen Buddhism into China), after being told by the gods to do so in a dream. This Bodhidharma carving was then placed at the Buddhist temple dedicated to Kanzeonbosatsu as an offering to the gods. This is the beginning of the Shōrinzan Darumaji temple.
This temple, which is lined full of traditionally crafted daruma dolls is said to be the temple where these particular Japanese traditional crafts originated. In 1783 Mt. Asama erupted. From this eruption sprung a famine. The ninth head Buddhist priest of the Shōrinzan Darumaji temple Togaku Wajō wanted to help those suffering peasants who lived nearby. Togaku Wajō made a paper-mâché daruma with a base carved from wood. This daruma was based upon the print 一筆達磨坐禅像 (ippitsu daruma zazen zō) by the Zen Buddhist Tōkō-Shinetsu. Upon making this daruma, Togaku Wajō taught how he made it to the suffering peasants. Thus the traditionally crafted daruma doll was born.