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Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village
By Sunny Seki; Tuttle Publishing, 2012

Publisher Book Description:
... "Yuko-chan, an adventurous blind orphan, is able to do amazing things. She confronts a temple burglar in the dead of night, and crosses treacherous mountain passes to deliver food to hungry people. During her travels, Yuko-chan trips and tumbles down a snowy cliff. She discovers a strange thing as she waits for help: her tea gourd, regardless of how she drops it, always lands right-side-up. The tea has frozen in the bottom of the gourd! Inspired by this, she creates the famous Daruma doll toy, which rights itself when tipped -- a true symbol of resilience.

Thanks to Yuko-chan's invention, the villagers are able to earn a living and feed themselves by selling the dolls. Yuko-chan never gave up, no matter the obstacles she faced, and the Daruma doll is a charming reminder of the power of perseverance."

HC $15.95

Q&A with author Sunny Seki:

Q: I'm wondering if Yuko-chan being blind is based on a legend or is she your fabrication?

A: Thank you for your interest in Japanese folktales. You have asked a very good question!
 
All my stories are based on both historical facts and also ideas traditionally accepted in Japan.  However, I have to point out that all folktales are originally somehow created. And if we conduct extensive research about so-called original stories, we will always find something that was missing, unreliable information, and also many detailed variations.  In this spirit I usually add or subtract some elements to enforce my story and its message.  I am not a repeater ... but I am positively a creator! By no means is it my goal to create a documentary.
 
According to accounts of the origin of the Takasaki Daruma Doll, there was a monk named Togaku, and in 1783 he was living at the Daruma Temple. When Mt. Asama erupted and caused so much damage, this monk recommended that Daruma dolls be created and sold. While no documentation exists stating that the monk had helpers in this project, it is reasonable to assume that he did. Furthermore, if the helper happened to be female, there would have been no written record from that era.
 
Since old times, Japan had blind women called goze, and they were trained to play musical instruments professionally, with public help.  Therefore, I combined these two elements of helper and goze to create Yuko-chan. I don’t call this "fabrication,"  but rather a reasonable "possibility."  With a character like Yuko-chan, the story becomes more sensible to readers today.
 
My goal is to give birth to NEW folktales of Japan. I do not think that Japanese folktales should end with only the Inch Boy or Bamboo Princess!
 
Best,
Sunny Seki
2012

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