KANAGAWA, Nov. 12 – A shop in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, is now super-busy making cow-shaped lucky dolls called “eto daruma” for sales during the year change period. Arai Darumaya is an old firm specialized in producing “Soshu daruma,” a papier-mache doll with a long-established tradition that dates back to the Keio era, more than 150 years ago. The shop makes an original animal-shaped daruma doll every year as a lucky charm for the new year. In the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2021 is the year of the ox, so it’s currently making the dolls in the shape of a milking cow.
The local artisans paste several pieces of “washi” traditional paper onto a wooden mold to create the figure and allow it to dry. They’ll insert a clay weight through the hole in the bottom of the doll so that it always returns to an upright position when tipped over.
The shop starts producing the year-end products in summer, as the dolls will dry quickly. It makes 3,000 eto daruma every year, and the work usually continues even after the New Year’s Day.
“It’s been an extraordinary year due to the COVID-19,” the fourth-generation shop owner, Seikan Arai, 65, said. “But I believe we can pave the way for the future if we move forward slowly but steadily like a cow.” The price of one 2001 eto daruma is 3,300 yen.