2017 No.22

Souvenirs of JapanSouvenirs of Japan


Tiny bells add enjoyment to summer
Fuurin Summer Wind Chimes

Photos: Ito Chiharu, Aflo

To feel cool and refreshed in summer, the Japanese have long employed various strategies. One of these is the fuurin summer wind chimes, a small bell that rings when it sways in a gentle breeze. It is suspended under the eaves of a house and tinkles softly when its strip of colored paper catches the wind.

These chimes apparently go back to the time when tiny versions of bronze hanging bells were first hung under the four corners of the roofs of Buddhist temples and pagodas to keep misfortune away. Later, it became customary for everyday folk to hang them outside their homes.

Found throughout the country are various types of fuurin that incorporate some aspect of a popular local craft. Those made of iron in Iwate Prefecture, which are shaped like a hanging bell, ring out a soothing, lingering tone. Another iron type, made in Shizuoka Prefecture, is housed within a bamboo cage. Its appearance alone has a cooling effect. And then there is the version handmade in Tokyo, called Edo-fuurin, which is a blown “bubble” of glass featuring a cute, hand-drawn illustration. Other examples include the ceramic ones made in Okayama Prefecture and the porcelain ones from Saga Prefecture.

Still much loved today, fuurin help soothe our minds with their soft tinkling.