Making Japanese Daruma Dolls


Daruma Doll

Have I mentioned before that the Kessler kids {and their mom} tend to get caught up in a topic and explore it for w-a-y longer than planned? And that any curriculum or unit we begin takes at least twice as long as it should? Well… same goes for Galloping the Globe.

In case you weren’t sure, I’m a science lover. So… to help my children {ahem… and myself} become a little more well-rounded, I decided to use GTG as our spine this year. It’s a decent roadmap, giving direction to my geography planning, but pithy enough to satisfy my need to control everything we do make it my own.

So here we are, three weeks into our two-week study of Japan, with no plans to move onto another country anytime soon. At the rate we’re going, we’ll “Gallop the Globe” in about six years. There IS an end in sight, though, to our study of Japan… THREE WEEKS FROM NOW!

Because they’re enjoying Japanese arts and stories so much, Trevor and Molly decided that Japan would be the perfect subject for our geography club’s end-of-the-year fair. I’m told we need to learn even more, and do more projects so that our table is full at the fair. So, et ready for lots of Japanese projects…

The first is the Daruma doll.


Daruma Doll


The Japanese Daruma {or Dharma} doll is a symbol of the ancient Zen Master, Bodidharma, and his self-discipline and positive outlook. It has a round shape and weighted bottom so that it will stand back up if it is knocked down, hopefully teaching us to be dedicated and persistent and to recover from misfortune.

When you first get {or make} your doll, both eyes are blank. It is up to the owner of the doll to make a wish, set a goal, or begin a new project, then paint one eye. When the wish comes true – or the project is successfully completed – the other eye is painted in.

Since many of the dolls available for purchase are decorated with Japanese character for good luck, politicians often purchase these at the beginning of a campaign, and color in their second eye when they win.

We made ours with Model Magic clay. First, we rolled the clay into a ball:


Roll the clay into a ball.


Then we elongated the ball:


Shape it into an oblong roll.


Next, we made an indentation and added a face, features, and blank eyes:


Make a dent and form a face


Add the facial features and blank eyes




Finally, we added decorations and set our goals:


Decorate the dolls body




Once the Japanese reach their goals, their dolls {which are usually only held onto for about a year} are burned and blessed in a celebration ritual called a Daruma Kuyo.

While we believe that we make our own “luck” by being faithful to our standards and loving and worshipping Jesus, the Daruma dolls have been a fun way to introduce the concept of goal-setting and working towards achieving those goals…

Do you do anything special to celebrate the setting {and achieving} of goals, either your kids’ goals or your own personal ones?