Teru Teru Bozu てるてる坊主
Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Tokyo Q&A: Why are there little white puppets hanging around windows in Tokyo?

Usually placed near a window, these little tissue paper dolls remain perched anywhere from houses to offices

Written by
Kirsty Bouwers

Seen in many a house, school or office, these little puppets may have escaped your attention unless you’ve been here for a while. They are known as ‘teru teru bozu’, which loosely translates to ‘shiny (bald) monk’, and are supposed to bring good weather, as the monk’s head would shine when the sun comes out.

They are usually made just before big outdoor events, at the time everyone’s praying to the weather gods, and there’s even a song associated with them, usually sung while creating the little monks. Some people like to draw a little face on it when the weather has improved.

The most well-known (and gruesome) backstory to the teru teru bozu involves a monk who promised a warlord that he could stop the rain by praying; when that didn’t happen, he was decapitated and his head was hung outside, covered in cloth, to make the sun appear.

Yet according to other sources, the practice originally came from China, where it was not a monk but a little girl with a broom, known as Soseijo or Sochin-nyan, who had to be outside to ensure her village wouldn’t have torrential downpours. The ending isn’t much happier, though. She was eventually sacrificed, with villagers creating paper cutouts of her in her honour. That story eventually evolved into the version we see today.

Your Tokyo questions answered

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