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Daruma in Gunma are really big, and in Takasaki they are the biggest of all. The original shrine, from what I understand, that they originated from, is in Takasaki (or Annaka anyway), so every year around New Years there are many daruma markets in the area. I wish I had gone last year, it was so much fun!

Daruma are dolls that cannot fall down since the bottom is rounded off. Traditionally they are red, and are the likeness of some guy… yeah, I didn’t get all the history. As time passed they looked less and less like the actual priest guy and more and more stylized (and cuter, the priest guy is pretty scary looking…). Now, it is seen as good luck to entrust your wishes of the New Year to the daruma by wishing, then painting in the left eye (they come with two eyes blank). If your wish is met by the end of the year, you paint the other eye in, and then burn the daruma at the shrine, and start all over.

I haven’t gotten rid of my old daruma, but I did buy some new ones for the new year! Anyway, now they come in all sizes and colors, and they’re really fun. So when a friend of mine mentioned she was going, I was quick to prod Kenji into going to! We didn’t get a chance to see her there, but it was fun nevertheless!

We took the train from Fujioka and walked from the train station in Takasaki to the temple, following the people and food stalls. This thing was HUGE! MUCH bigger than I expected. I thought it would be a few stands selling daruma, oh no. It is a full scale festival atmosphere, with all the yummy festival foods, tons of daruma stands and vendors, and even more people! Ahhh!

Our first stand, a sign we are walking in the right direction!

We finally hit the temple… and the lines. WHOA! This is the area you drop off your old New Years decorations and daruma for burning.

Bye guys! Awww, the middle one’s winking!

We inched our way up to the shrine proper and got let up the steps… turns out the line was more for safety purposes. Good thinking guys, those steps were STEEP! I can’t imagine someone falling down them… luckily, the police had everything handled, and we got up the steps only to find…

…more steps, of course! And a daruma man! I took a picture with him, will have to get that from Kenji’s camera!

Pictures don’t really do the crowds and chaos justice. We get up the steps and don’t know which way to turn! Everywhere there were daruma and other new years decorations being sold, people were praying and buying things at the temple, the priests were getting the daruma blessed, kids were running around, and there was good food smells everywhere. I love that! I picked out a daruma (purple!) to buy after a bit of looking around. Each shop produces slightly different faces, but I went by color since I already have a red one! And since I’m not burning mine, I can get a different color every year!

A giant daruma, and the ema of the shrine were daruma! HOW CUTE! Of course I got one, and Kenji did too. I love collecting ema!

Throwing money in, they had to make it bigger to handle the crowds xD And the food of choice for the night, or one of them at least! We got in line as soon as we saw the doner kebab sign. People going past could be heard to ask, “whats a doner kebab?” Kenji looks at me and says, “the people who know are already in line!” They’re so good. Haha!

We wound our way through seemingly endless food stands, hawking the yummy things that make festivals so awesome… butter potatoes and corn, yakimanju and yakiniku, takoyaki and yakisoba, chocobanana, crepes, and taiyaki, and the list goes on. But finally we hit the bridge we had came from, cold, with fuller stomachs and lighter wallets.

I got out of there with a purple daruma, a tiny silver one, a tiger in a basket (year of the tiger), a small bag of chestnuts, and the daruma ema. I think I showed restraint, lol! Okay maybe not… but I do know next year is a must!