Imai Daruma Naya

Tell us about the company.

Imai Daruma was founded in 1930, both manufacturing and selling Takasaki Daruma dolls as a side business to support the founder's farming and agricultural business. Currently, under the direction of third-generation Daruma artisan Hiroshi Imai (as well as his family and eleven staff members), Imai Daruma produces approximately 50,000 Daruma dolls annually. Located in Toyooka-cho, Takasaki, Hiroshi and his team are the top Daruma doll manufacturers in Japan.

How did Daruma originate?

The motif of Takasaki Daruma is inspired by Bodhidharma, an extremely influential Buddhist monk who lived 1300-1500 years ago and is credited by many historians as being the first to transcribe the teachings of Buddha into the written word.

In 1783, active volcano Mt. Asama erupted, killing over 1,500 people and triggering the Great Famine of Tenmei, which caused an additional 20,000 deaths. To uplift the struggling communities, local artisan Tomogoro Yamagata started using paper mache techniques to craft Daruma as protection against evil and decorative amulets.


What inspires your craft, and how would you describe your operating philosophy?

We proudly carry on the Japanese tradition of craftsmanship utilizing natural materials to create an environment that engages all five senses, while also  honoring the ancient Japanese underlying belief that ‘spirits reside in all things.'

How do you hope to inspire others with your products?

We hope appreciation for the simple warmth of our handmade lucky charms creates a centering and quieting calm amidst the chaotic efficiency of our modern, and increasingly digitized, lives. We also 
want our creations to convey gratitude and blessings for both the visible and invisible in the world around us. 


What is a typical day like for Imai Daruma?

When planning our workflow we give specific consideration the week's forecasted temperature and humidity, as both significantly affect paper mache. Once our production schedule is formalized, approximately ten specific tasks are assigned to each artisan, who then work both individually and collaboratively to build each Daruma. 


What is your process for making a Daruma doll?
  1. Vacuum-forming hand-crafted fabrics
  2. Hetta-tsuke: Attaching weight to the base of Daruma
  3. Shitanuri: Undercoat application
  4. Akanuri: Color Application (traditionally red, but most colors are available)
  5. Menkoire: Foundation Application
  6. Surikomi: Adding orange shadow highlights
  7. Hanamawashi: Nose and mouth drawn
  8. Hige-mayu Kaki: Beard and eyebrows drawn, design inspired by cranes and turtles
  9. Texts and pattern addition
  10. Final quality inspection, color adjustment, and packing


Tell us about the traditional production techniques that differentiate Imai Daruma from other mass produced Daruma dolls 

Unlike other Daruma brands that are dependent on industrial manufacturing and materials containing modern chemicals for mass production, we utilize raw materials, and pair highly skilled artisans with the latest digital transfer technology and our distinctive stenciling method.


How does sustainability fit into your brand?

Imai Daruma dolls are primarily made from local materials in the Takasaki area. They use recycled paper for the doll's structure, natural clay for the weight at the bottom of the doll, and environmentally-friendly pigments for coloring.


Where do you hope to see your brand in 10 years?

Over the next decade, Imai Daruma aims to expand its presence in the domestic market and to earn international recognition. Through persistent efforts and dedication, they commit not only to keeping up current production quality but also to enhancing the traditional Takasaki Daruma by sharing the stories, meanings, and history behind daruma with the world.

We carry a collection of Imai Daruma's products, which you can shop here.