Folk Amulet Passed Down in the Hida Region
These curious little fellows that can be commonly seen in souvenir stores across Gifu Prefecture are named sarubobo – dolls of baby monkeys, which have long been passed down in the Hida region. They were said to have come into existence far in the past, when grandmothers would make them as toys for the children of the region to help them pass the time during the long winters. More of a descriptor than a name, saru is the Japanese word for “monkey,” with bobo meaning “baby” in the Hida dialect of Japanese. The word saru has an additional layer of meaning to it as well, being a word that means “to leave” in Japanese, representing how sarubobo are thought to protect their owners from misfortune. They are also said to bring their holders good luck with pregnancy and safe childbirth, and items like sarubobo dolls and cell phone straps can be found in souvenir shops across the region. Though traditionally only red, sarubobo of all colors have been coming out of the woodwork lately, with each color thought to have its own effects. Pink brings romance, yellow invites wealth, green is for good health, and so on.