Takasaki is the home of daruma, round Japanese dolls designed to represent Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. On the first two days of the year, many flock to the town to buy them.
If you are looking for the part where they burn the daruma on a bonfire, then head to Maebashi Hatsuichi Daruma Festival (15 minutes from Takasaki Station) on January 9 or Shorinzan Darumaji Temple (30 minutes from Takasaki Station) on January 15.
Why daruma dolls?
Every year, many people purchase daruma and fill in the pupil of one of their eyes (the right one) with black and make a wish. When that wish comes true, they fill in the left side. Once the daruma have completed their purpose many take their dolls to shrines at the beginning of the year to set them alight.
You can even throw your daruma on the pyre if they haven’t fulfilled your wish — that’ll show them — but you still need to fill in the eyes.
The Takasaki Daruma Market doesn’t just include bustling stalls selling daruma dolls, from ginormous to tiny and all sizes and colors in between. You can also find specialty dishes, including piping fried manjū sweet buns, and performances each day (full schedule here).
Extra large daruma will be on display throughout the festival period — so make sure to grab a photo with the giants.
Note: There will also be a free shuttle bus that takes you to well-loved New Year spots in Takasaki.
How to get there
Takasaki Station is on two Shinkansen lines, so can be reached in under 40 minutes from Ueno Station in Tokyo. If you want to save money, you can also get there from Shinjuku Station on a special rapid Shonan-Shinjuku Line train in just over 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The market will take place near the West Exit of Takasaki Station.Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.