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Teru Teru Bozu, the Japanese Rain Charm

Have you ever seen this doll hanging by someone’s window in Japan? You have great chances to see them during the rainy season. Japanese children (and sometimes adults, too) hang these dolls called teru teru bozu, as a charm to bring good weather.

The Custom of Making a Teru Teru Bozu

Imitating this very ancient Japanese custom is simple. First, make a simple doll out of paper, tissue, or white cloth, looking like the picture above. Then, hang it by the window where people can see it. Do not immediately draw a face on it! Only if the sun is shining the next morning, draw a face on it to show your gratitude. Finally, release your doll in a river with some sacred sake. If the sun is not shining on the next day, just discard it.

The Terrifying Origins of These Rain Dolls

The Japanese word bozu is one of the words used to call Buddhist monks. In the past, monks were also expected to be able to invoke rain. The main industry of Japan used to be agriculture and rain was crucial.

Japanese monk walking near a temple

In 800, the famous Japanese monk Kukai was commanded by the emperor in Shinsen-en, Kyoto to create rain. After that, more than 20 monks held this ritual until 1300. Among all the monks who tried the ritual, Jinkai was known as a specialist, even nicknamed “rainmaking master.” There is even a myth that a red dragon appeared while he was creating rain in Shinsen-en.

If a monk failed in controlling rain, his head was severed. The story says that in the past, people in a village were suffering from flooding due to continuous rain. They asked a monk to stop the rain, but he did not succeed. His head was then cut off for lying. The villagers wrapped his head in a white cloth and hung it up to wish for good weather the next day!

After hearing this story, I surely do not see teru teru bozu the same way… But I will still make some to wish for good weather! Why don’t you try, too?

Born in France, I've been living in Japan since 2011. I'm curious about everything, and living in Japan has allowed me to expand my vision of the world through a broad range of new activities, experiences, and encounters. As a writer, what I love most is listening to people's personal stories and share them with our readers.