With its magnificent architecture, beautiful greenery, and historical importance, Osaki Hachimangu Shrine is undoubtedly one of the most familiar and prestigious shrines for the people of Sendai.
Embarking on the quest to find Matsukawa Daruma talismans, unique to the Sendai area, is another great way of enjoying Shrine visits in this city. Since old times, these blue colored papier-mâché Daruma dolls have been considered a lucky charm for the people of Sendai.
Osaki Hachimangu Shrine and Matsukawa Daruma are closely tied to the samurai lord Date Masamune who governed the Tohoku region from the Azuchi Momoyama Period (Feudal Japan) to the early Edo period. He was known as a legendary warrior and leader as well as Sendai’s founder. One of his defining features was his missing right eye that he allegedly lost to small pox as a child. This lead him to receive the nickname of the “One Eyed Dragon” which will be important for later!
Date Masamune ordered the construction of the Hachimangu Shrine in 1607 and is one of the best places to enjoy some of the finest works of Matsukawa Daruma as well as acquire some for yourself too.
Close to the Shrines main building (honden 本殿), is a little structure full of sacred offerings. Along with local sake, are two large Matsukawa Daruma statue offerings.
Like the ones in the photo above, you can find another large Matsukawa Daruma in a separate building close to the honden. This design is called Takarabune (宝船) which means “treasure boat” in English. As you can see, depicted on the the Matsukawa Daruma is a treasure boat with many items symbolizing good fortune as well as a depiction of Ebisu (恵比寿), the god of good fortune.
This particular Daruma was donated with the hopes that the pandemic caused by the coronavirus end soon, as is explained on the white panel to the right of the Daruma.
Unfortunately these grand works of Matsukawa Daruma are not available to the regular Shrine visitor. However, you can find smaller Matsukawa Daruma available for purchase in the Osaki Hachimangu Shrine, as well as in some other select locations in Sendai.
Notice that there is only one Matsukawa Daruma that has blank white eyes. In most of Japan, the standard Daruma design is red with the eyes left blank. Originally, the beholder vows give the Daruma its eyesight back should the God residing in the doll help them achieve their endeavors. The Matsukawa Daruma’s eyes, on the other hand, are already filled in. It is said that Masamune Date, who only had one eye, was very adamant about his preference for the Daruma having two eyes able to watch-over the people in all directions and protect them from harms-way.
While many centuries have passed since the “One Eyed Dragon” was among us, the importance of the Matsukawa Daruma has remained unchanged. In recent years, their decorative place has shifted from the shelves of Shrines to the homes of the people; always watching over and protecting the health and safety of the family.
Osaki Hachimangu Shrine is a wonderful place to enjoy the beautiful sceneries and traditions of Sendai. The architecture and calm atmosphere are reason enough to come and pay it a visit; But embarking on the search for Matsukawa Daruma and the stories that surround it make it all the more inviting, exciting and interesting!