Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Japanese Encyclopedia: Furin (Wind Chimes)
Furin are Japanese wind chimes used in the summer. In this article, we will introduce the cute Japanese wind bells along with places where you can purchase your own.
Written by ニコ
A furin or wind chime is often used to represent the summer in Japan. It is hung outside or near the windows and people enjoy the soothing sounds it makes when the wind blows.
The furin consists of the bowl-shaped exterior, the zetsu (clapper) on the inside that produces the sound, and a strip of paper that is hung from the zetsu. With just these three parts, the furin is able to emit the beautiful sound that is reminiscent of the Japanese summer.
The History of the Japanese Wind Chimes
From ancient times, it was believed that when a strong wind blows, an epidemic will spread. Therefore, in order to avoid epidemics and to ward off evil, a bronze wind chime in the shape of a bell called the futaku was hung up.
When the futaku gets blown by a strong wind it produces a sound that alerts people to the wind and therefore any changes happening around them. These bell-like chimes were mainly hung in sacred places such as shrines and temples, giving them a divine sort of feel. The furin where the simpler versions hung up everywhere during the summer when epidemics spread due to the high temperature and humidity as a ward against these problems.
Chimes in the shape of bells were formerly made of bronze. However, in the eighteenth century, techniques on how to make glass where introduced from Holland and changed the appearance of the furin. During the nineteenth century, glass products became popular and glass furin became the main type of furin instead of the bronze ones.
Even though traditionally the furin was used to ward away evil and epidemics, nowadays people simply enjoy its cooling sound during the hot summer days. For some people, the relaxing sound of the furin paired with the sound of the Japanese cicada eases the summer heat.
The Meaning of the Paper Hanging from The Furin
The furin has a piece of paper hung from the center of the bowl shaped bell. When the wind blows, the paper catches the wind and moves the clapper to produce the sound. Thanks to the paper, the furin is able to emit the gentle sound that everyone likes enjoy during the summer months.
Furthermore, the paper is used to enhance the feeling of a cool summer breeze. The paper allows us to visually see the wind. Even when the paper moves from a light breeze, you suddenly acknowledge the presence of the wind. It is the secret of how to feel cool even on the hot and humid days of the Japanese summer.
How Are Furin Made?
Traditional glass crafting techniques are used to make the basic shape of a glass furin. First, the heated glass is blown up to the size of a large candy. Then, after collecting melted glass by spinning it, the glass is shaped into a bowl. While adding more air, a hole to put the thread for hanging is made. Lastly, a picture is painted onto the inside of the cooled glass to complete the fūrin.
In Iwate prefecture, traditional Nambu iron techniques are used to make the Nambu Furin. Despite the heavy appearance, the clean metallic sounds it creates has its own charm. In Toyama Prefecture, furin is made using the Takaoka Bronze. Okinawa uses their famous Ryukyu Glass to create theirs. In various regions of Japan, regional manufacturing techniques are incorporated and passed down. It is also a popular craft to make for summer school projects by using plastic cups as the bell.
Some people use their furin simply to decorate their room. The design of a furin helps to add a slight Japanese edge to any room. It has many purposes and can be used in many different ways depending on people liking.
How To Purchase Wind Chimes in Japan
If you would like to buy your own furin, we recommend the Fujiwara Fūrin Main Shop. A shop that has been operating for over one hundred years located a twelve-minute walk from Mizue Station on the Toei Shinjuku Line. If they aren't very busy, you will be able to see how furin is being made, and you will also be able to experience making one yourself. Please feel free to contact them if you are interested.
The popular souvenir of Iwate, the Nambu iron furin can be purchased at the Mizusawa Ward in Oshu city. If you visit Mizusawa Station in the summer, you will find many Nambu furin on display at the waiting room in the station. Indulge in the melody of the clean sound of the metal while finding a perfect souvenir.
It is easiest to purchase a furin during the summer. Wind bell shops from all over the nation are likely to have pop-up booths to sell their original furin. Traditional shopping areas such as Asakusa in Tokyo will have a variety of traditional and original wind chimes as well.