This work depicts a daruma. A daruma is a traditional Japanese doll whose figure is based on the Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism. Daruma are often depicted in this roundish shape because of a legend that the Bodhidharma stared at a wall in intense meditation for nine years, until both his arms and legs fell off. Daruma are traditionally depicted in red, but can appear in various colors with different meanings. They are considered good luck figures.
This particular top is a type of top known as a “headstand” (sakadachi 逆立ち) top. When spun fast enough it flips upside down and spins on the tip of its handle.
Hiroi Michiaki: This is a daruma, but I think there’s probably something inside of it.
Janell Landis: It’s a headstand [top].*
*[Editor: A type of top that when spun fast enough flips upside down and spins on the tip of its handle]
Hiroi: There’s something inside, right? Something–
Janell: A string. It has a big head, and–
Hiroi: It spins.
Janell: It’s a headstand top.
Hiroi: Oh really? Ahh, it does stand on its head.
Janell: It’s one of the last ones I got from him.
Hiroi: Ohh that might be so. This form [of top].
Janell: Yeah. You use it by putting the head down and putting this on, and you pull the string.
Hiroi: The image on [his stomach] reads kaiun (welcoming good fortune).
Janell: It’s a nice one.