When traveling through Japan with my buddy Deb Aoki, it really is about the journey and not the destination. The destinations are great, but the only way we can make little discoveries is to stop along the way and see what we like. I know we could easily have trained it straight back from Karuizawa to Tokyo, but were we going to be travelers, or tourists?
Deb planned for us to stop in Takasaki for the night, just to get more of a taste of what was there. On our last trip, we passed through this transfer station, and it seemed to be a cute place to stop.
Did you know that Takasaki produces 80 percent of Japan’s Daruma? The Daruma doll (also known as a Dharma doll) is a hollow, round, traditional Japanese figure modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. The eyes are blank, and you fill in one of the eyes when setting a goal. When you have accomplished the goal, you fill in the other eye. One explanation says that in order to motivate Daruma-san to grant your wish, you promise to give him full sight once the goal is accomplished.
But why are they made here? In Takasaki, there is a temple called Syorinzan Darumaji where the first Daruma dolls were made several hundred years ago. The priest of the temple made the original wooden carvings in the eighteenth century to give to the local people to bring them luck during a famine. We don’t know if the Daruma saved them, but it has been a traditional icon ever since, and it is everywhere and in everything.
I do recommend that if you are traveling through Takasaki, be sure to leave time to explore the train station a little, since the expansive souvenir shop is full of many unique and wonderful omiyage — Daruma-themed, and otherwise.
APA Hotel Takasaki Ekimae
And that was it for Takasaki. I told you it was short! But the next post is about Hitachinaka, and I think it will be more entertaining.
For more photos from this trip, click here.