My friend and her family runs a small workshop in Nagano city — a Daruma ( Bodhidharma ) Doll Workshop.
She and I have been friends since we both were members of a group of parents in Nagano who visit elementary schools and read the kids stories. The importance of story reading and story telling have been positively reevaluated in Japan.
In Japan, this type of doll is believed to bring you good fortune and good luck. People, especially business people, highly appreciate it and make it a custom to visit shops to purchase ones on New Year’s Day and other ceremonial occasions.
The price varies, but the middle-range price for the ones of about 30 cm tall would be 2,000 ~ 3,000 yen. If you find it too big as a souvenir, you can get miniature ones of about 10 cm tall just for several hundred yen. It is a papier–mache (hollow inside) and so, not as heavy as it looks.
I (happen to be a licensed English tour guide ) took one of my guests to this workshop last November and then she got a special bargain as well as a good hospitality from the workshop.
Summer is their busiest season because of the summer festivals that take place all over Nagano.
They are so friendly and kind to visitors. It is also fun and interesting to see how they make these traditional Japanese mascots.
If you are lucky, you can see the scenes of them making Daruma Dolls.
The doll she holds in her right hand is a finished one while the other, still in process.