Back on January 17th we had the chance to head to the Dairyuji Temple in the neighboring city of Gifu to participate in their Daruma Daishi celebration. This particular Buddhist temple worships Bodhidharma because of his influence on the revival of the temple. The original temple was destroyed by the Nobi earthquake around 500 years ago and so the priest at that time prayed to Daruma Daishi for the reconstruction of the temple and his wish was granted over a 20 year period of time.
Daruma Daishi (Dharma Doll) are little small squat red figures that have a prayer slips on the inside so that the recipients prayer might be fulfilled. During the Hatsu-Kannon Daruma-Koyo celebration the community gathers together and burns over 10,000 of these little figures in one afternoon!
We arrived to the temple and found a perfect spot to view the burning. The monks even walked right by us as they were entering the ceremony to start the fire. As they lit the pyramid of Daruma dolls with a bamboo poll they began chanting sutras and circling the pyramid. They continued to DO this for quite some time. It’s hard to describe the energy of the ceremony as it was a mix between solemness, peacefulness, and excitement.
After the initial pyramid had burned down, all of a sudden 2 huge trucks appeared full of massive piles of Daruma dolls! As the elders threw in each doll the fire got bigger and bigger. These dolls are made up of some sort of plaster so they burn pretty easily and quickly too.
As we were the only westerners in the crowd one guy took a liking to us and began handing us little Daruma trinkets! He used his limited English to explain to us what was going on, which was very helpful and extremely kind. He was a funny little man because every time we thought he had left us he was actually just running off to find us more trinkets! He kindly gave us matches, good luck coins, fortune slips, and mini Daruma Dolls! Sometimes its fun to be the only foreigner around.
In all it was an amazing cultural experience that is super unique to this area and specific temple. We bought ourselves a little Dharma doll in hopes to have a little good fortune ourselves in the coming year.