A dramatic send-off at a mountain temple.

Daruma are traditional Japanese good-luck dolls, and while their aesthetics predate any contemporary kawaii concepts, there’s something undeniably cute, and maybe even a little silly, about how they look. It’s probably a combination of their roly-poly proportions and exaggerated facial features, but whatever the reason, it’s sometimes hard not to feel a little inner chuckle when you see one.

But these photos from Japanese Twitter user @phaengy show daruma in a whole new light…the light of being on fire!

There’s no CG or photoshopping involve either, as all those daruma really have been set ablaze.

▼ Many of the daruma have the name of the person or organization that bought them written on their front.

So what’s going on here? Well, when new, daruma have fully drawn faces, with one exception. Actually, two exceptions, since they don’t have any eyes. What you do is make a wish (either for something specific or just a general health-and-prosperity-kind of aspiration) as you paint in one eye, then when your wish comes true, you paint in the other.

▼ So the wishes these daruma were bought for came true.

But then what do you do with the two-eyed daruma after your wish has been granted? While it’s fine to keep it around as a decoration in your home or office, there’s a common belief in Japan that good-luck charms, such as daruma, omamori (cloth amulets), and ofuda (paper talismans) lose their effectiveness after about a year, at which point you’re supposed to return them to the temple or shrine where you originally got them. Then, with their purpose fulfilled, the charms are put to the flame in a ritual bonfire set by the monks.

@phaengy’s photos are from the annual daruma otakiage (“daruma bonfire”) at Darumaji Temple, in the town of Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. As you can probably guess from the name, Darumaji is especially famous for daruma, with villagers in the local farming communities purchasing the dolls there since some 200 years ago. The temple holds its largest daruma bonfire every January, and even accepts daruma that were purchased at other temples, if their owners can’t make a return trip but can swing by Darumaji. People with a daruma that’s granted their wish can even mail them to the temple, as long as they give prior notice, and the monks will add their dolls to the bonfire.

▼ Video of the lighting of this year’s January fire from the temple’s official Twitter account

To some, this might seem like a harsh way to treat objects that bestowed good fortune on you, but fire is believed to have purifying effects in many Japanese religious traditions, and Darumaji even describes the bonfire as a “memorial service” for the daruma. The ceremony is one of respectful thanks, even if it looks pretty startling for first-timers.

Related: Darumaji official website
Sources: Twitter/@phaengy, Darumaji
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Twitter/@phaengy
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!