Bodhidharma, a woodblock print by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1887. Bodhidharma was a semi-legendary– or at least subsequently surrounded by myth)– Indian Buddhist monk credited with bringing Ch’an Buddhism (later, in Japan, Zen) to China, with beginning the tradition of fighting Shaolin monks (so indirectly we can thank him for Hong Kong kung fu films), with contemplating a blank wall in silence for nine years, and for being a bit of an old bastard by the sound of it. (Very comprehensive Wikipedia page.) Also a Bear icon avant la lettre, and if you don’t know what a Bear is already then you’re probably über-straight and you also probably won’t want to Google it if you’re at work or your wife is in the room. Anyway, I swear that’s not why this picture was hanging around on my hard drive.
He’s omnipresent in Japanese life and iconography in the form of daruma, the rotund, goggle-eyed papier mache dolls intended to motivate or attract success: you draw one eye on at the beginning of your venture, then draw the other eye on when you succeed. One bit of folklore suggests that daruma have no arms and legs because Bodhidharma’s own limbs atrophied and disappeared during his years of wall-staring. This is equal parts adorable and disturbing. You know, Japanese.