CONTRIBUTED BY JANNINE MYERS
Just last week, as my daughters and I were leaving the school where my youngest takes her karate lessons, I couldn’t help notice some odd-looking puppet-type dolls (teru teru bozu) hanging from a tree outside the home of a nearby resident. They looked like little ghosts, but friendly-like and not at all intimidating or offensive. For some reason I felt as if I had seen them before, or at least similar looking dolls hanging from some other place that I couldn’t quite recall. My oldest daughter seemed to recognize them too but like me, she couldn’t quite remember why they seemed so familiar. I continued to drive past the tree and on towards home, all the while thinking about the little puppets and desperately trying to figure out what they were and why they were there hanging there in that tree.
Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long to find out what the little dolls were. A couple of days later, while out on a run with one of my good friends, I described the little dolls to him and asked if he would mention them to his Japanese wife. At first she had no idea what he was talking about, but after I sent pictures via email, she knew exactly what they were; they are called teru teru bozu.
Teru teru bozu are basically little weather charms; they have been around for some time, or supposedly since at least the Edo period which dates back to 1603 and ended in the early 1800s. At that time, the children of urban dwellers would make little paper dolls which they believed could control the weather elements if chanted to. Farmers also used to make them in the hopes of preventing rainy weather.
The term teru refers to “sunshine” or “fine weather,“ and the term bozu means “priest,“ or more specifically a bald priest (buddhist monk). The paper dolls are supposed to resemble the appearance of little monks, and hopefully possess the magical powers required to bring about beautiful, sunny weather. Children today, tend to make teru teru bozu before certain outdoor events which would ideally be held on a non-rainy day, for example, the annual undokai (school sports festival). Incidentally, that is why my daughter and I were familiar with the dolls; we had seen them during sports events when we lived on Yoron Island several years ago.
Do they work? That, I don’t know. I’m more of a skeptic myself, but seeing as someone has already gone to the effort of making some teru teru bozu, who am I to jinx all their hard work? I may as well throw a few chants out there myself and hope the little dolls bring us some nice weather tomorrow, especially as I’ll be running the Naha Marathon with friends. Now if I could just find someone to make us some type of “endurance” dolls…