Tokyo is a busy city, with increasing numbers of visitors from abroad every year. As such, day trips are a good option to escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolis for a while and see a different side of the country without going too far. In this post I’ll present a day trip from Tokyo to see the hometown of the daruma, an unusual and crowd-free option compared to other day trips from Tokyo!
The Daruma doll is a staple of Japanese culture. On a trip to Japan you’ll without a doubt see it in numerous souvenir shops and traditional stores, and maybe even at hotels, restaurants, traditional restaurants… manga and anime fans may have seen a daruma featured in a series too.
Daruma are hollow round traditional Japanese dolls, modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. These dolls, though typically red, can come in all sizes and colours depending on the artist. Usually considered a toy, daruma dolls are also used as a talisman for good luck. You might see daruma dolls with no eyes, only one eye or both eyes drawn. This is because the daruma doll is sold with no eyes and you draw the first as you ask for a wish. When the wish has been achieved, you can draw the second eye.
Here you can paint your own daruma doll and see an artist’s workshop! No need to buy a souvenir when you can make it yourself, with the help of the local people.
But darumas aren’t the only thing this city has to offer. Nice quiet temples, a botanical garden, a cave excavated by hand, an art museum, hot springs and a traditional Japanese garden are also nearby. If you have more than a day, a visit to the mountains nearby is also recommended, where you’ll find a secret shrine said to be inhabited with tengu, Japan’s mountain goblins.