Daruma Dolls

by Grace Bonney

One of the interesting aspects of being a blogger is finding ways to push through tedious computer tasks. As much as I love the helpfulness of a long product roundup, they can take hours and hours (and hours) of research and photo editing to put together. So Amy and I found a method that works for us: Hulu. We both like to sit on our respective couches and slog through a full day of internet research while binging on entire seasons of a TV show. While I prefer horror movies, Amy has a soft spot for TV sitcoms and has turned all of us at the office onto Matthew Perry’s new show, Go On. His character suffered a difficult loss and attends regular group therapy sessions, during which he learns lessons or tools for dealing with grief. During one episode, the characters in the group are introduced to Daruma dolls, also known as wishing dolls and Dharma dolls. These traditional Japanese dolls are modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, and are meant to aid in goal-setting or act as a general encouragement toward achievements.

Rich in symbolism, these dolls can be used in several different ways, but the most common use involves assigning a goal to (or writing it on the bottom of) each doll. At the beginning of the process, you draw only one eye on the doll. When you’ve finished or achieved that goal, you can draw in the second eye. The idea is that the little one-eyed doll will be watching you and serving as a reminder to persevere and finish your goal. Seeing that today is the last day of January and the time of year when it’s easy to lose track of New Year’s resolutions, I thought it seemed fitting to share these as little reminders to stay the course and push toward the goals we’ve all set for ourselves. Each of us on the team now has a doll to remind us of our toughest tasks, and I hope they’ll keep us moving in the right direction. If you’re interested in learning more about Daruma dolls, you can click here for more on their history or here to see the models we purchased for our encouragement. Here’s wishing everyone good luck with their goals for the rest of the year! xo, grace

*You can watch a video of Daruma dolls being made in Takasaki (where 80% of all Daruma dolls are made in Japan) right here on YouTube. Just be sure to turn your volume off if you’re at work; this video has some music in the background.

Photos by Max Tielman

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  • I just watched that episode last night! Love Go on. What kind of tough tasks are you all using the dolls for? I think I might need one just to guilt me into finishing projects in general, I always stop half way through, it’s a terrible habit! :)
    Thanks for letting us know where to grab one!

    • Aly

      Personally I’m focusing on a few different things: cutting refined sugar out of my diet, daily meditation for at least 2 months (which will hopefully then be a practice I commit to without needing a goal doll) and not taking my laptop home to work at night. Most of mine are always surrounding the idea of work/life balance- which is tough to stick to ;)


  • What a beautiful and inspiring post. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who watches TV while doing my daily research.

    I love Japan – and was actually given some of these dolls when I lived there back in the 90s. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know that this is what they were for, but now that I know, I’m going to put them to good use. Nothing like a semiotics to get my fingers a-tapping.

    Thanks again,


    PS. If you’re a fan of Japanese food, you might like this post too.


  • Great idea! I was first introduced to daruma dolls when I travelled to Japan, for business. The manufacturing facility that we were visiting, had one in their office for new years project goals.
    I could use one myself.

  • I have also found myself unexpectedly smitten with Go On. And I liked the size dolls they had in that episode. A size that would fit well in one hand. I once had a “Goal doll” that was, maybe, twice that size and it wasn’t nearly as relatable as the more idol/charm-like little ones. I also really appreciated they way they contrasted the therapy with the motivating capacity of the dolls. Fast tracks and long, slow paths… all acceptable. I love being human!

  • Ha – I’d never seen the show but watched that one particular episode because some wallpaper I designed was used in a few scenes in one character’s apartment (for the tiniest sliver of time, of course). I was totally struck by the dolls they were talking about too and did some googling after the episode :) So funny/cool to see them here on D*S!

  • Darumas really work! My husband and I made a few wishes on the daruma we bought while living in Japan. The wishes came true! We filled in the second eye to show that the wish was fulfilled but the final step is to burn them at the shrine they were originally purchased at. Sadly we live thousands of miles away from that shrine in Yoshino. So for now our cats just knock the daruma around and chew on them.

  • The dolls are a bit out of my splurge budget range. Do you think it would be disrespectful to make a few out of clay for my own personal use?

  • Just took a look, amazing 3D paper site. My doll is printing. Thanks Anastassia! Thanks to you too Grace, fun post.

  • These are fantastic. I belong to a community where we do alot of healing crafts and this would be such a terrific project. We have festivals where we build sacred fires and dance/chant/drum for a few nights in a row. Making these on that land and then burning them in the fire would be an amazing spirit project.

  • I have never heard of these but I love this idea. I might have to DIY this sometime. I have a few goals that need tending to, and a creepster one-eyed baby doll might be just the thing to get me going. Thanks!