This exclusive Hello Kitty daruma bento in Gunma, can only be found at the train station in Takasaki. Takasaki is home to the Shorinzan Daruma-ji Temple, and is the largest producer of daruma dolls in Japan.
This Hello Kitty daruma bento is exclusive to Takasaki, the birthplace of the Daruma doll. Shorinzan Daruma-ji Temple was built in the 17th century and is still a popular tourist site to this day.
On my last trip to Japan, my family and I visited Gunma prefecture: a mountainous region 50 minutes away from Tokyo by bullet train. Our sightseeing journey led us to the town of Takasaki, often credited as the birth place of the daruma doll.
There are lots of daruma around Shorinzan Daruma-ji Temple, but you can also find them around the whole of Takasaki.
Daruma dolls are wooden, hollow dolls that are typically painted red, but can come in many different sizes and varieties. They are meant to bring good luck and ward off misfortune.
At Japanese train stations, commuters can pick up an ekiben, which is a bento box specifically bought to be eaten during the train ride. While at Takasaki station, my sister bought this Hello Kitty daruma ekiben. The box was small so I presume this is intended for a child; my sister is 54 years old.
Why is Hello Kitty shaped like that? She’s a daruma kitty! You can find ekiben in train stations all over Japan, but none quite like this.
This Hello Kitty ekiben was NOT vegan, so I decided to reuse the box and make my own vegan, sansyoku soboro bento.
My vegan sansyoku soboro bento. Sansyoku refers to the use of three colours, and soboro refers to the technique of cooking and crumbling ingredients into small pieces.
In this bento I used soy mince meat and turmeric-seasoned tofu for some “egg”. If you don’t have a Hello Kitty bento box, don’t worry! You can make your own sansyoku soboro donburi.
Make your own vegan sansyoku soboro donburi.
Mum and I visiting the temple. Dad bought me and my husband a daruma each. The owner of the doll thinks of a wish and paints the left eye of the daruma. Once that wish is achieved, the right eye can be painted.
Other than for sightseeing, people come to the temple to get their own daruma doll. A monk blesses the doll, bringing you fortune and good luck. Daruma dolls start out with blank eyes, the owner is meant to think of a wish and then paint the left eye of the doll. Once that wish has been achieved, the right eye is painted. At the temple, a monk will paint the eyes for you.
Another traditional practice is writing on an Ema, a piece of wood that can then be hung. Visitors write their wish or goals on the ema and hang it at the shrine for the gods to receive them.
Visitors write their wish on an ema, a wooden plaque, which are hung up for the gods to receive. These ema are shaped and painted like daruma dolls.
If you’re ever in Japan I highly recommend you visit Takasaki, try the ekiben and visit Shorinzan Daruma-ji Temple! It’s less than an hour trip on the bullet train from Tokyo.
Watch my trip to Takasaki on my Instagram!
Shorinzan Daruma-ji Temple
296 Hanadakamachi, Takasaki, Gunma 370-0868
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