A sarubobo doll is a mascot of Japan’s Hida region. Hida is located at the northern part of the Gifu Prefecture known for its hot springs and serene looking mountains.
Sarubobo literally translates to ‘monkey baby’. It is shaped like a human but with no facial features. Mothers and grandmothers used to make these dolls for children, and is believed to bring blessings and good fortune.
Majority of the sarubobo dolls I saw in Takayama were colored red. I learned that different colors signify different meanings: like red is for marriage and family; gold is for money; blue is for good fortune at work or in school; black wards off evil; pink is for love; green is for peace and health; and purple is for longevity.
In Takayama, sarubobo dolls were everywhere. They were in shops’ entrance doors, and hung as offerings at the Kokubunji Temple. When we reached Hirayu Onsen en route to Kamikochi for a closer look at the Japan alps, we saw what is claimed to be Hida’s largest sarubobo doll at the bus station.
I personally think that while it’s a cute souvenir, what struck me about the sarubobo dolls is how sweet it must have been for children in the past to have received a handmade doll from their moms or grandmothers. It’s the labor of love and the personal touch that the elders put in to bring happiness to their children – it was just precious. We gazed on these dolls I came to remember times my mom would help me with my school projects when I was younger. D recalled the time his mom made a volcano for him when he was a child.
There’s so much simple but thoughtful crafts and activities that I am learning more about in this trip to Japan. I’ll write about these other touches of art soon.