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Hatsuichi Matsuri Daruma Festival いせさき初市(だるま市)

Hatsuichi Matsuri First Market Festival Hatsuichi Matsuri First Market Festival
Hatsuichi Matsuri First Market Festival Hatsuichi Matsuri First Market Festival

Make a wish for the year ahead

The Hatsuichi Matsuri is a lively festival that has been held every January since the 1600s. People come to give thanks for past triumphs and wish for good luck in the new year using a paper-mâché doll known as a daruma, which represents Buddha. They place their old daruma on a bonfire and buy a new one for the coming year.

How to Get There

The nearest shinkansen stop, Takasaki Station, is a one-hour journey from Tokyo.

Take the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo to Takasaki. Then board the Ryoma Line and ride to Maebashi Station. Honmachi-dori is a 10-minute walk from Maebashi Station.

Quick Facts

Daruma is the Japanese pronunciation of the Sanskrit word "Dharma"

Nearby Takasaki is known as the Daruma doll capital, but Maebashi has held the festival since the 1600s

The festival originates from merchants who wish for a prosperous year of silk production and sales at the first market

Plenty of lucky options

Rain or shine, this traditional festival is held every year on January 9 on Route 50 in downtown Maebashi. Approximately 600 stalls sell charms and daruma, so you are bound to find one you fancy. The most common variety offered is the daruma doll, but you can also purchase other kinds of charms such as maneki-neko cats. In true market style, there are often no price tags, giving you the chance to bargain with the friendly stall owners.

What do you do with a daruma doll?

The doll is popular with people starting new endeavors and students aiming to pass their exams

Color in the left eye when you make a wish

Place it in a prominent place so it can keep watch

Color in the right eye when the dream comes true

Out with the old, in with the new

The festival starts around 10 a.m. with a ceremonial burning of the previous year's daruma dolls. Head over to Hachiman Shrine to see the thanksgiving bonfire, symbolizing the return of the good luck charm to the heavens.

Afterward, you'll see a portable shrine carrying the spirit of the market god through the streets.

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