Sarubobo dolls have been in the Hida region since ancient times. The word literally means ‘baby monkey’, ‘bobo’ being the word for baby in the Hida dialect. Red is said to repel illness and evil spirits, so the dolls are, traditionally, red in color.
It is said that the custom of keeping these amulets was nation-wide, and began in the Nara Period (710-794) when diplomatic envoys to China returned with them, explaining that they were representative of the Koshin faith. They are said to bring health to the owner, and to answer wishes for a safe and easy birth. As an amulet for the latter, mothers would make sarubobo for their daughters, hence the shape similar to that of a babe crawling on all fours. Although these dolls are no longer commonly seen elsewhere, they are enjoying a revival as souvenirs of Hida.