Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village
Sunny Seki’s story is set a couple of centuries ago, in Takasaki, near Tokyo, just after a volcanic eruption of Mount Asama. Yuko-chan, a blind orphan, makes for a resilient, endearing heroine. The monks at Daruma Temple take care of her. Their spiritual leader, Daruma urges his followers, “If you fall seven times, you must pick yourself up eight times! You need strong faith, and the belief that you can accomplish your goals"
The spirited Yuko-chan, with her dog, help deliver food to villagers who have lost their homes. One day, she slips and falls, hurting herself. As she awaits help, she reaches for some tea. She then notices that her tea gourd always returns to upright position after being dropped, rather like Daruma's teaching about never giving up. A charming idea takes shape in her bright mind. Despite the initial dismissal by her peers, she finds support from an unlikely quarter, due to her past generosity. Yuko- chan with the monks enlists the villagers to paint gourds with Daruma’s face. The Daruma dolls gain popularity and create a steady income source for the villagers.
The story is inspiring and underlines the thought that disability does not imply inability. Sunny Seki, with his illustration, captures the beautiful, rustic landscape very well. For culture lovers, the bilingual book offers additional information about the Daruma doll tradition.
It is interesting to note that even today, one can buy the Daruma dolls in Japan. The dolls are sold with the eyes blank. It is customary for buyers to paint in one eye when they make a wish and paint the other when they achieve their dream. This custom, as expected, has had its share of controversy.
Saffron Tree is thrilled to have Sunny Seki answer our questions. Stay tuned!