Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts


Who is Daruma ?


Who is Daruma ? What is Daruma?

"For centuries Zen masters have said that
Daruma is Zen.
Perhaps it would now be appropriate to say that Daruma is Japan.

In neither case is the definition fully explicable or applicable. Each is essentially a KOAN whose solution is acessible only to experience, not to rational analysis.
This is to assert finally that Daruma is one key to an authentic and rewarding experience of Japan and the Japanese people."

These are the final words of Prof. McFarland in his classic about Daruma in Popular Japanese Culture.

Koan and Haiku 公案と俳句

My very first laquer Daruma


The Japanese Daruma Association
Zen Nihon Daruma Kenkyuukai 全日本だるま研究会

They publish a yearly magazine DARUMA NEWS with a lot of interesting subjects about Daruma art and monthly newsletters full of funny and serious details.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Daruma News 18 : SHIKOKU special


The Zen teachings of Daruma Daishi entered Japan during the Kamakura period, where he is revered as the First Patriarch of the Zen Sect.

Daruma Practising Zazen
for Nine Years in Front of a Wall

(menpeki kunen 面壁九年)

There are many renderings of Daruma figures, but what they want to express on the inside is always the same. It is the spirit of Daruma Daishi (about 5th Cent.), the eighth generation Great Master after Shakyamuni Buddha, founder of the Zen sect. Legend says that Daruma was born the third prince in a South Indian kingdom. He was of a sharp mind already as a child and followed the Great Master Prajnaatara, where he studied Buddhism intensly and carried on his tradition. He then took off to China to preach Buddhism, taking the sea road to South China. He was invited by Emperor Wu and expounded his wisdom for him. But the emperor did not understand the preachings of Daruma, so Daruma took off again, crossing the Yangtse River to the east and ended up in the Shaolin Temple near Loyang. He stood on some reeds when crossing the river, which leads to the famous iconographic rendering of
"Rush-leaf Daruma" (royoo Daruma 芦葉達磨).

Rush-Leaf Daruma (royoo) Daruma on a reed

Suusan 嵩山 was one of the five great centers of religious learning in China, so Daruma sat down in a cave at the foot of the mountain to practise Zazen Meditation for nine years. Later the folks of Edo imagined this long period of meditation, where his beard grew long, his legs withered away and his hands shriveled of no-use, rendering into the tumbler doll as we see him now.
The Zen teachings of Daruma Daishi entered Japan during the Kamakura period, where he is revered as the First Patriarch of the Zen Sect.

During the middle of the Edo period the famous Zen priest and painter Hakuin (白隠禅師 1685 - 1768) painted many simple impressive pictures to teach the townspeople of Edo who could not read.

Hakuin Ekaku ... 白隠 慧鶴 Hakuin Zenji

Menpeki Kunen, Wallgazing for nine years
Daruma and Meditation


Daruma as a Drinking Companion (shukoshi 酒胡子) -
Daruma as the "Old man who never falls down"
(futoo-oo 不倒翁)

and the self-righting Tumbler Doll
(okiagari koboshi 起き上がり小法師)

The origin of papermachee dolls (hariko 張子) comes from China. During the Tang period (616 - 906) Chinese culture reached a pinacle. During that time there was the custom of using a wooden doll with a pointed base, which was like a spinning top. When the doll fell, it pointed to a person who had then to drink the next cup of ricewine or do a short performance. (Remember, the cups were really quite tiny.) Times passed and we reach the Meiji Period of Japan (1868 - 1912).

The Chinese Drinking Companion had changed to a Japanese papermachee doll and was now called "Old man who never falls down". This old man seemed to get healthier with the years and was the symbol of long life. Japanese travellers to China brought the Chinese dolls back as souvenirs, since they were light and easy to carry. Falling down and tumbling up again, this was so much fun that it soon turned into a toy for little children - the Tumbler Doll was born. It seemed to fit the parent's wish for children to grow up healthy and was a hit on the market. Going through many changes during time, the old man turned into Daruma as we know the doll today.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


From the Tumbler Doll (okiagari koboshi)
to the Tumbler Daruma

(okiagari Daruma 起き上がりだるま)

After the Period of the Warring States Japan reached a time of 300 years of peace under the Tokugawa regime. The Tumbler Dolls of papermachee、first made in Kyoto, soon reached the new capital of Edo. The inventive townspeople of Edo painted a big black beard on the face of the old man and a visiting priest came to say: "Well, if this is not the face of Daruma Daishi himself!"
The red robe was the traditional garb of a priest. Getting up after falling down was taken as a wish getting better for an ill person. It was also said that the stark red colour would ward off smallpox, so the red tumbler doll of Daruma would be the best present for a sick child.

This one blessing was soon followed by others and developed into "Falling down seven times, getting up eight times" (nanakorobi yaoki 七転八起), turning into a blessing for many generations of the family line, good business and others. Thus Daruma got a firm place in the heart of the Japanese people and seemd to work for the good of people with six heads and six arms. The faith in him grew steadily and soon the dolls were sold at the New Years fairs at many local temples and the tradition to paint one eye for a wish started. You had to buy a new one every year, so the tradition expanded and we have to thank the founder of the Zen Sect for all of this.

Nanakorobi yaoki 七転び八起き
seven times down, eight times up


Why is the Tumbler Doll Daruma always of
RED color?

Red was the color of the robe of a high-ranking priest and since Daruma Daishi was the founder of the Zen Sect, he must have worn a red robe. The patterns painted in gold on the doll represent the Buddhist stole that a priest wore.

During the Edo Period, Daruma came to be seen by the townspeople as the healer of smallpox. Nowadays we have medicine to cure this illness, but in former times children suffered a lot from this and other diseases. It was believed that RED would ward off diseases, so the Red Daruma Doll with a threatening face became the preventor and healer of sickness. Modern medicine has found out that the color red really helps prevent smallpox!

But the Tumbler Doll Daruma is not always red. In Yamanashi Prefecture we have a white Daruma as a talisman for the silk industry and the healthy upbringing of children.

Akai ... 赤いRed Hoosoo 疱瘡 
.Smallpox, Red and Daruma


Why are the eyes of a Daruma for Good Luck
(engi Daruma 縁起だるま) always white?

In the beginning, Daruma dolls always had eyes painted. But in the Kanto area around Tokyo, Daruma Dolls with white eyes were sold during the New Years markets. The person who bought it or the priest at the temple had to paint one eye and cast a wish and after the year was over and the wish had come true, the other eye was painted and the doll then burned in a consecrating bonfire at the temple at Years End. You then got a new one for the New Year and the circle begun again.

But why did the Daruma dolls not have eyes?
When the priest Daruma sat in a cave for nine years meditating, he had to fight sleepiness. He thought: "Because I have eyes, my eyelids fall over them and I start snoozing." So in a bold act he cut off his eyelids to keep awake. (The eyelashes, which he had thrown away, took root and turned into the tea bush to give us this wonderful wakening beverage, as legend knows!)
Another explanation seems more realistic. If you paint eyes on a Daruma Doll it gets some facial expression and if you are not a good painter, it might look akward or evil. So to sell your piece, it is a lot easier not to paint the pupils and leave the blame of facial expression with the customer when he paints the eyes himself.

The next step then was to cast a wish while painting an eye, then burn it after service time was over and buy a new one - who says they did not have good business ideas in Old Edo?! Daruma Dolls were very popular and the habit of getting a new one every year has stayed with us, as we can see at the many Daruma Markets during the New Years Season.
He is a real steady Long-Seller!

Me-ire - Painting Eyes for Daruma 達磨の目入れ
Daruma and his EYES


Does the Beard and the Eyebrows of Daruma
have a Meaning?

The face of Daruma

The face of a Daruma for Good Luck is usually painted with bold strokes for beard and eyebrows. The most traditional of this kind, the Takasaki Daruma
has eyebrows in the form of a crane and a beard in the form of a tortoise, both symbols for long life (see story about TSURUKAME).

Another explanation says the beard is like a pine tree, around the eyes we have bamboo and the nostrils represent the plum, altogether the tree auspicious symbols for long life (shoochikubai, shochikubai 松竹梅). On the sides and the belly of the doll, other spells for good luck, good business and a long family line are painted, so he is the epitome of Good Luck Symbols and that is maybe why he sold so well to the Edo townspeople.

The eyebrows and the beard are painted carefully with the brush and some even used real hair to create a beautiful male face (see story about HIGE DARUMA).


. Daruma and his beard ひげだるま / ひげ達磨  

. Takasaki Daruma 高崎だるま .

. "Three friends of Winter", Pine, Bamboo and Plum  


Daruma - Does he have Arms and Legs or Not?

A normal tumbler doll of Daruma does not have any arms or legs. This shows the influence of the real Daruma Daishi sitting in long years of meditation where his legs shriveled and he cut off his arms since they distracted him, as legend tells. This little fellow with arms and legs hidden under his robe had to get up soon after he fell down and so captured the fancy of the Edo townspeople; he encouraged them and gave them hope for the future. But we have other dolls of Daruma with hands or legs from Shizuoka, Nagano or Okayama, which we will explore in a different story.

. TE 手.. The Hands of Daruma

. Jimotsu ... 持物 ... what is Daruma holding?  


When and Why did Princess Daruma
(Hime Daruma 姫だるま) come to Life?

Daruma Dolls took as model the Indian Priest Daruma Daishi, who was obviously male. But in some areas of Japan we find a sweetlooking female Daruma Doll, the Princess Daruma. The most representative of these comes from Takeda in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Here is her story:
Once upon a time more than 300 years ago, there was the young girl Aya, wed into a Samurai family and thrown out of the house by her unfriendly mother in law on an icecold winter night. She had to stay in a shed braving cold and hunger for two days and was rescued by her husband just in time. The mother in law heard the story and came to see Aya, tears in her eyes and remorse for her harsh behaviour and from that day on the family lived happily together.
The diligence of Aya became the model for a tumbler doll in the fashion of Daruma, since he is the model for diligence too, meditating nine years in a cave.

We also have the story of a curtesan who commented about Daruma
"Well, he was sitting in quiet meditation for nine years, but we here have to sit and suffer in the Noisy Pleasure Quarters for more than ten years!"
The painter Hanabusa Itchoo made a picture of the curtesan, which became the model of the Princess Daruma Dolls.

The Princess Daruma dolls where also bought as talismans when a baby girl was born to pray for her healthy upbringing.

Hime Daruma 姫だるま Princess Daruma

Oiran to Daruma 花魁と達磨 
Daruma and the Courtesans (geisha)

. Hanabusa Itchoo, Itchō 英一蝶 Hanabusa Itcho .
(1652 – 1724)


Since when was Daruma used during an Election?

Before an election, you can see pictures of the cantidates with a huge Daruma, painting in one eye while wishing to win the election. On the belly of Daruma there are the characters: Certain Victory" (hisshoo 必勝). It seems the cantidates need this lucky charm to go through the election times, it gives us the feeling: Now its election time! But when was this custom started?

The earliest elections were in 1928 for the House of Representatives. A papermachee maker of Takasaki made a Daruma called the "God to Win the Election" and went around selling it. We do not know about the outcome of the election, but we know that during the election of 1930 the representative of Nagano City, Mr. Matsumoto, painted an eye on the face of a big Daruma with the characters "God of Good Luck" and put it up in his campain center, as was shown in a newspaper article of February 6th in Asahi Shinbun. And of course, he won the election! This success story made its way around Japan in no time and the custom was born.
We can only bow to the wonderous power of Daruma to bring good luck to people.

Hisshoo Daruma 必勝ダルマ
to win an election

(Hissho Daruma, Certain Victory)


Features of a Daruma doll

One of the most popular talismans of good luck in modern Japan is the armless, legless, and eyeless Daruma doll, or tumbling doll. It is made of paper mache, weighted on the bottom so it always stand up, even when pushed- symbolic of Bodhidharma's persistence in meditation.
This has the meaning of standing up positively even if failing, and has the meaning of reaching the objective.
Moreover, the design such as "pine bamboo plum" (sho-chiku-bai), cranes, and turtles assumed that the history is good from old times is given to the pattern of the face.

History of the Daruma doll
In about the 5th century, DARUMA - Father of Zen Buddhism - obtained realization at the end when he sat for nine years toward the wall, and the teaching was succeeded from generation to generation by apprentices, spread to China, and to Japan.
In 1697, Daruma-ji temple was founded by Priest Shinetsu here in Takasaki.
He drew the image of the DARUMA in zen meditation and it is distributed at the New Year of every year, and it is assumed that it is the start of the Takasaki Daruma doll.

Toward the end of the 18th century, Yamagata Goro carved the initial Daruma doll getting a hint from the type by Priest Togaku, and he put Japanese paper on it afterwards.

During the Meiji era when the sericultural industry of silk became active, a Daruma doll was requested to pray that the farmers were able to harvest a lot of silk threads. Afterwards, at the present age, the tumbling doll became necessary and indispensable as a guardian that people pray to for their business prosperity.

There is the Daruma-ji temple at the Mt. Shorinzan in Takasaki City, and a Daruma fair is held on the 6th and January 7 every year.
It is crowded with the people who buy the Daruma doll from the Japanese whole country.


seems a nice way to put it.

Daruma is really quite a phenomenon here in Japan.

I always tell our visitors that he is
the most famous foreigner in Japan!

To get a glimpse at the scope, check out this long list of items I have been writing about in the culutral context of Japan:

Daruma Museum Japan

If you have finished reading all of the above, you might have
a glimpse of the
Daruma Phenomenon in Japan.

. Haiku and Daruma

Daruma san (Darumasan, Bodhidharuma, Bodhidharma, Daruma Daishi, Dharuma, Dharma)  だるま 達磨 ダルマ ぼだいだるま 菩提達磨 だるまさん

GOOGLE for more answers
WHO is Daruma ?

GOOGLE for more answers
WHAT is Daruma ?


..... Books about Daruma だるまの本、大百科など


My special Daruma reading the sutra

Zen and Daruma
have always been very close to me since my first steps in Japanese Archery (弓道) in 1977 in Kamakura. My first purchase was a huge seated Daruma statue (see top of this story), which had to spend a long time on our television set, since the house was so small. Now he got his promised space in our large farmhouse compound,
the Paradise Hermitage (GokuRakuAn 極楽庵)
in Okayama Prefecture, where we moved in 1995 and now have a real Daruma Museum.

Towards the end of 2001 I was lucky to encounter Mr. Kyobashi and his fantastic homepage (which unfortunately closed down in 2009), so I started to write some stories about Daruma myself. I intend to continue this with his valuable help and I want to take this opportunity to thank him very very much for his support.

Gabi Greve, January 2010

. . . . .

司馬江漢 Shiba Kokan, Shiba Kōkan (1747 - 1818)

. DARUMA - Father of Zen Buddhism .  
by my friend, Mark Schumacher


Someone who seeks the Way doesn't look beyond himself.
He knows that the mind is the Way.
But when he finds the mind, he finds nothing.
And when he finds the Way, he finds nothing.
If you think you can use the mind to find the Way, you're deluded.
When you're deluded, buddhahood exists.
When you're aware, it doesn't exist.
This is because awareness is buddhahood.

- Bodhidharma

source : facebook


- #daruma -


Sanpo-Ji Kyoto


Temple Sanpo-Ji 三寳寺 (さんぽうじ)
Sanpooji 三宝寺 Sanpoji

CLICK for more photos

A Nichiren sect temple founded in December 8 1628.
The statue in the Myoken-do Hall was carved around the middle of the Edo period and the deity it depicts is affectionately known as 'the Myoken of Narutaki.' Chinese quince trees line the approach to the temple while the cherry trees next to the Main Hall are said to have been transplanted from the Imperial Palace. Both quince and cherry trees are well known features of the temple.
On the first Sat and Sun in December, the temple bustles with people who come to take part in the 'Nichirenshu no Daikodaki' or 'Nichiren White Stewing Radish Festival.'
source :

Narutaki no Myoken-san
Matsumoto-cho Narutaki Ukyo-ku


Mikuji - fortune telling slips in a wooden Daruma

source : Copyright (C) 2009 ZauCats


Mikuji Sanpo-Ji Temple

Mikuji backside
Click for enlargement


Cooking Radishes for Nichiren

kigo for mid-winter

CLICK for more photos

This festival is in memorial of Saint Nichiren and Nichiro 日朗上人.
If you eat a piece of the radish stew, you will be protected for the coming year and also not contract palsy 中風封じ祈祷.
Radishes are cooked with tofu from Saga 嵯峨豆腐.

When believers gave this soup to Nichiren, he tasted it and said


The big radish is like a nail of the big Buddha Hall.
It tasts like the sweet dew in the paradise of Tooriten.

There is also cooked rice with yuzu citron flavor, yuzu gohan ゆず御飯, another speciality which Nichiren liked very much and praized highly as food to warm the body.

CLICK for more photos



Japanese HP


Saint Nichiren 日蓮上人
and related KIGO

Bishamonten and the Tooriten paradise とう利天

Myooken Bosatsu 妙見菩薩 Myoken Bosastu

Daikodaki (daikotaki) 大根焚 Cooking large radishes
kigo for mid-winter


Sanpo-Ji in Tokyo, Nerima Ward
Tokyo, Nerima, Shakujiidai

source : Nobuhiro, facebook

. Fudō Myō-ō, Fudoo Myoo-Oo 不動明王 Fudo Myo-O
Acala Vidyârâja - Vidyaraja - Fudo Myoo .

- quote
Ikefuchi Historical Park
On the south of Shakujii Pond 石神井公園, just behind a little fox shrine, is the much smaller Ikefuchi Historical Park (池淵史跡公園) where shards of pottery were found, believed to be connected to the Shakujii Castle mentioned above. It is due to have a small museum built in it by March 2010.

Just a little east of Ikefuchi Historical Park is Sanpoji Temple, built in 1394 and later moved here.

At the eastern end of Sanpoji Pond, just in front of the site of Shakujii Castle, is where Japan's first 100 meter pool was built, in 1918, for training Japanese swimmers in preparation for the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium. In 1989, the eastern end of the old pool was turned into a "Waterside Observation Park" (水辺観察園) where various rare waterside flora can be seen, and serving as a resource for the full renaturing of the area.
- source :





Naito Meisetsu


Naito Meisetsu 内藤鳴雪

CLICK for original LINK

nana korobi ya oki no sore mo hana no haru

seven times down, eight up
this too
cherry blossoms of spring

nana korobi ya oki no ware mo hana no haru

seven times down, eight up
that's me !
cherry blossoms of spring

From 日本大歳時記, Kodansha 1983


Memorial Day for Meisetsu,
Meisetsu Ki 鳴雪忌 (めいせつき)

"Old Plum Tree Day", Roobai Ki 老梅忌(ろうばいき)

kigo for early spring


Naitoo Meisetsu 内藤鳴雪
Naito Nariyuki, Meisetsu Naito, Nantoo 南塘

1847 - 1926, February 20

His Haiku Name was "Old Plum Tree" Roobai I 老梅居, 老人梅居

CLICK for original . KAIZER ..

His father was Fusaosuke and his mother Yaso.

He was a samurai of the Matsuyama Feudal Domain, born in the Residence in Edo. He was interested in education and literature, especially the Chinese classics. He became caretaker of the dormitory of Tokiwa-kai.
He became a friend of Takahama Kyoshi at age 46 although he was 20 years his elder, and started to write haiku too. He achieved great fame for his poetry during the late Meiji and Taishō eras.
He died in Azabu, Tokyo at the age of 80.

His death haiku

tada tanomu yuba hitotsu no samusa kana

It is so cold today
That I request only a hot water bottle
To warm up myself now

CLICK for original ! lib.ehime-u.

Here is a sequence of Haiku from Shiki and Seigetsu


Thus the elegance shows itself
On the beard as the wheat of
The last year put out



The autumn sky is high
He will be stroking his sparse beard
I suppose in this day

(Seigetsu 霽月, 1904)


I take a view of
The snow of Mt.Ishizuchi every year at
The anniversary of Meisetsu's death

(Seigetsu, 1937)

The tower of Mr.Meisetsu's beard
(Shoujuji Temple)


東雲の ほがらほがらと 初桜

At open and blight dawn,
The first cherry blossoms of the year
Start to be in bloom

詩は祖父に 俳句は孫に 春の風

I have learned Chinese poems
From Grandfather and Haiku from his Grandson
It's just blowing spring breeze

At Shinonome Shrine

Meisetsu Naito's 70th birthday in 1918

元日や 一系の天子 不二の山

A Happy New Year's Day
We have a family of Emperor and
Mt. Fuji in this country

At Dogo Park, Matsuyama

April of 1925

功(いさおし)や 三百年の 水も春

Distinguished service for repair work
Water of river flowing for three-hundreds years
Look like in spring now


寶川 伊豫川の秋の 出水哉

We have the great flood
of Takara River and Iyo River that
Occur in every autumn here

(Seigetsu (村上霽月)

At Raikoji Temple


CLICK for original LINK

gantan ya ikkei no tenshi fuji no yama

New Year's Day -
one line of Emperors
and Mt. Fuji

This haiku is by Naito Meisetsu (1847-1926), another Matsuyama haiku master.
It is a celebration of the New Year, in a rather nationalistic vein, mentioning the unbroken tradition of the imperial house and Mt. Fuji as the two most characteristic symbols of Japan. Although by no means the best haiku of Meisetsu, it became the first kuhi that was set up in Matsuyama. This was already in 1918 - the first kuhi for Shiki would only be set up in 1933.

Copyright © 2003-2006 Ad G. Blankestijn


CLICK for original !

After having a bath
I fan myself by
The folding fan in winter

湯上りを 暫く冬の 扇かな


choochoo no shitau hana wa ya kan no ue

love and follow this flower wreath -
that on the coffin lies.

Tr. Harold Henderson


onna hitori soo hitori yuki no watashi kana

one woman
one monk
river crossing in the snow

Tr. Gabi Greve

This reminds me of the Zen story
Monk carrying Woman across the River


umakata no uma ni mono-iu yosamu kana

the horse guide
says something to his horse -
this cold night

Tr. Gabi Greve

umakata 馬方 "horse man", horse owner or leader
can lead a horse by hand, or sit on it or be the driver of a carriage.


waga koe no fukimodosaruru nowaki kana

The autumn blast
Blows back to me
My own voice

Tr. Blyth


fresh purchased -
already the town's bell.

Traveling priest
vanishing in mist,
trailed by his bell.


The travelling monk has vanished in the mists;
But still his little silver bell persists.

All I ask of the world,
a hot water bottle -
I'm cold!



A spring full of sun
on the tail of the peacock—
how it sparkles!

tr. by Stephen Addison


ookata no yuebito adashi ya Meisetsu ki

Takahama Kyoshi 高浜虚子

kono michi o fumi mo madowazu Meisetsu ki

Tomiyasu Fuusei 富安風生

Haiku by Meigetsu


quote: 俳句俳話ノート


Haiga Meisetsu Naito


More Reference LINKS

Murakami Seigetsu 村上霽月


Death Poems, Death Haiku

Memorial Days of Famous People SAIJIKI

Saijiki of Japanese Ceremonies and Festivals



Kozenji Daruma Temple



Kozenji Daruma Temple
Koozen-Ji 興禅寺 こうぜんじ (だるま寺)
in Kamitonda Village, Wakayama (上富田町)
Kouzenji Kōzenji

This white Daruma statue is made from the sands of battlefields of WWII in order to pray for peace around the world.

© PHOTO inabane


The temple itself has a history of more than 2000 years. It is one of the most famous ones in Wakayama prefecture, with a famous statue of Kannon Bosatsu and a collection of old scriptures.
In the famous garden, where people can walk around, the azaleas are the most famous when in bloom.

The white Daruma statue was constructed in 1973 昭和48年. Since then, the temple is better known as "Daruma Temple". It is one of the eight famous Daruma temples in Japan.

臨済宗 妙心寺派 大雄山 興禅寺
住職 上田 勇堂
TEL 0739-48-0101

© Darumadera


The Temple Compound

Another Daruma Statue inside


Click HERE for many more photos of the temple !
© iwadawaiwainet


praying for peace -
a white Daruma
keeps watch

Praying for Peace with DARUMA
Daruma for Peace
made by Children from USA, Japan and Afghanistan


Tibetan Daruma for Peace

Peace and War in Haiku

. Daruma Temples, an Overview






Tanzaku, 短冊 small poetry boards
strip of paper, pillar prints

Snowman Daruma as a tanzaku picture

Click on the thumbnail to see many more!

... ... ... ...

Tanzaku are mostly written for the Star Festival, to hang them on a bamboo pole.
Star Festival (Tanabata, Japan)

Windchime Daruma with paper slips


Tanzaku as a kimono pattern

© Kimono Kyoto


Greetings everyone,

My name is Jake Benson and I am a paper marbler and bookbinder. One thing that I am very interested in is the use of Japanese marbled papers, or suminagashi paper for tanzaku panels. Many haiku poets used this kind of decorated panel, in addition to many other kinds of decorative papers or ryoushi for their works. Some are further embellished with kirihaku, or cut metal leaf work, similar to maki-e seen on lacquerware. To me such panels are not only to be appreciated for their meaning, but their powerful visual imagery that they convey.

Very recently, I came across a HUGE collection of beautiful digital images of many tanzaku online, from the collection of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

Information in English:

Gateway to the database (in Japanese):

Here are the links to tanzaku featuring suminagashi; click on the image to load it in glorious detail. I'm still trying to find out just WHO the poets are and WHAT they had to say.


くれたけの なびく末葉の 露のまも
ちよのみどりの 色はかはらじ

寒しとて 戸ざせば暗し とざさねば
あな北まどの 風にやれつつ








なりゆくはてもたけくそ有ける %(花押)

nama nuruki yu-oke no ue ya kiku no hana

on the lukewarm water
in the bath bucket -

中川金菜 Nakagawa Kinsai なかがわ・きんさい, active around 1833

Some fairly recent publications have focused on the Chinese poetry in this collections, by Professors Timothy R. Bradstock and Judith N.Rabinovitch, of the University of Montana. The titles are:

The Kanshi Poems of the Ozaka Tanzaku Collection : late Edo life Through the Eyes of Kyoto Townsmen.

An Anthology of Kanshi (Chinese verse) by Japanese poets of the Edo period (1603-1868).

Dance of the Butterflies: Chinese Poetry from the Japanese Court Tradition.

If you can make it to Washington DC, a fabulous exhibition, "East of Eden", is devoted to the depiction of Gardens in Asian art.

Some additional images can be seen here:

A friend and fellow marbler Milena Hughes sent me an image of a six panel byobu folding screen in the Art Institute of Chicago.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !
Tosa Mitsuoki, Japanese, 1617-1691
Flowering Cherry with Poem Slips
Edo period, c. 1675

As I mentioned, there are a pair of byobu with 6 panel folding screens each that feature large trees by a pond of silver at the Freer exhibition East of Eden.

Among the many items on display, there is an early 17th c. album that contains 30 pairs of paintings illustrating scenes from the "Tale of Genji" along with poems by various court scribes. All of the poems are written upon suminagashi paper. The leaf on display (#31) features a nice "whorl" of ink further decorated with kirihaku and noge (cut gold and metal leaf, in various shapes). It is a bit different from leaf #30, which you can see in the Freer collections database.

The description mentions that it is thought that they may have once decorated a folding byobu screen.

Also on display is a pair of 6 panel folding screens that feature large trees by a pond of silver. Individual tanzaku panels have been pasted to the screen to give the effect that they have been hung from the trees. The tanzaku feature a variety of decorative papers, including kumogami (cloud-paper, blue banding similar to arbling, but made with poured blue pulp) as well as kirihaku.

Unfortunately, you can only see a small clip of the image of this byobu on page 3 of the interactive tour.

Click on the interactive tour, then on "east Asia", and then click on "gallery". An image will load, but more are featured. The pair of Byobu that I'm referring to is image #18.

Another byobu decorated with tanzaku from the same period can be seen here:

... the tanzaku panels appear "as is recently tied to the branches following a spring poetry party or composition".
It also mentions how this practice "...of tying them to branches or donating them as offerings to the gods first started at court and then spread to other classes of Japanese society."

Unfortunately, no mention is made as to when this practice may have started.

Seeing these images makes me I wonder whether there is a tradition of hanging of tanzaku in seasons other than during the Tanabata festival.
Could it be that is just what survives as a popular the practice today?

Please enjoy this virtual a feast of Japanese decorative papers, tanzaku panels, and poetry!

© Jake Benson

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Tanzaku from Buson

panel by Kyotai

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短冊の歴史 (History of Tanzaku) Japanese.


External LINKs

Tanzaku in the Kamakura Period

Poems of Matsuo Basho on Tanzaku

Hiroshige Nature themes on Tanzaku

GOOGLE for more tanzaku photos !

GOOGLE for more 短冊 photos !


Shikishi <> 色紙 Decoration Art Board .. and Daruma

Washi, Japanese Paper 和紙 and Daruma

. . . . .. . . . . H A I K U

nawashiro ya tanzaku gata to shikishi gata

The rice-seedling beds;
The rectangle of a tanzaku,
The square of a shikishi.

Shiki, trans. R. H. Blyth

Blyth says about this haiku:
The seeds of rice are planted in square and rectangular-shaped beds which resemble the tanzaku and shikishi. The poetry lies in the fact that the things compared are remote materially but identical in form.

PHOTO © Gabi Greve, May 2007





Puzzle パズル

jigsaw puzzle ジグソーパズル

岡本肇(c) Hajime Okamoto
source :

puzzle for good luck 開運のジグソーパズル

with the seven gods of good luck on a treasure ship

Click the image for more !


ZigZag puzzle


Yanoman Puzzles

Kitty Daruma

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Puzzle by Yanoman Co.


Puzzle like Daruma Mickey Mouse


Two wooden puzzles made in Hakone

They are really difficult to adjust !

Taken apart ...

... ... ...


Hakone Japanese Puzzle Boxes
Hakone yosegi saiku 箱根寄せ木細工 yosegi-woodwork

The trick box. The secret box. The magic box, mystery box, personal box, puzzle box... No matter how you identify these traditional Japanese wonders, they are among the most intriguing and beautiful wooden art in the world.

The Himitsu-Bako (personal secret box) was designed over 100 years ago and continues to be produced in the Hakone-Odawara region of Japan. For more than three generations, local master wood workers have taken advantage of the wonderful variety and abundance of trees in this region.

Read more details HERE :
- quote : The History of the Japanese Puzzle Box
- 2007 Frik-n-Frak's Curio Shack -

More BOXES with Daruma


a missing piece...
the puzzle remains

(Often in life we miss a moment, miss a friend or an opportunity and
life remains incomplete.)

Kumarendra Mallick
Hyderabad, India, September 2011


Dragon Puzzle パズル 龍

CLICK for more images !

. The Dragon Art Gallery – 2012 .


. Hakone and Haiku .

. Lego and Nanoblock Daruma レゴだるま .

- #hakoneyosegi #puzzle -