Japanese Traditions: Teru Teru Bozu

Remember the famous scenes from The Notebook, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Chasing Amy? Yes, those scenes. We wish! In movies, rainy days are primarily signaled by passionate kissing in the rain. Well, I don’t know about you, but my life doesn’t work that way. In my world, rain means melancholy days, moldy interiors and candy-floss hair. And now that June is here, I hate to be the one to say it but the dreaded rainy season will very soon be upon us.

In a typical manner, however, our host country has its own quick remedy for most things bad — including never-ending rain. It’s called Teru Teru Bozu and it looks like a tiny Casper. Almost.

So, what is it?

© Photo by iStock: kaorinne

Teru Teru Bozu or “Japanese rain-prevention dolls,” as I like to call them, are traditional handmade dolls made from tissue paper or cloth, usually white and ghost-like in appearance, and hung outside doors and windows in Japan in hope of sunny weather. You’ll see many of them especially during the tsuyu (rainy season) and on special occasions, such as outdoor festivals or harvest events.

The words teru (照る), meaning “to shine” and bozu (坊主), referring to a Buddhist priest (or someone gone bald), call to a priest’s magical powers (literally: shine, shine monk) to prevent rain. In particular, Teru Teru Bozu are popular with Japanese children who are first introduced to them in kindergarten or daycare through a beautiful, yet slightly creepy nursery rhyme that became popular in 1921. The rhyme calls Teru Teru Bozu to bring back the sunny days, promising that if the wish is fulfilled, lots of sake will be granted, and if not, its neck will be chopped off. What can we say — children’s songs back in the days were …continue reading