When you think of Japan and it’s rich and magnificent culture you tend to think of the architecture, the food, kimonos, fans and wind chimes also crop up. In lots of professional photos of Japan there are wind chimes in many, many places. Outside shops often have them. Outside homes often have them. Lots tend to be found near temples and shrines. And are often hung underneath a roof. Other than making a beautiful noise why do they have these chimes seemingly everywhere? Let’s find out.
What does it mean?
The Japanese wind chimes are called Fūrin – or Furin written in English. Fūrin literally translated means “wind bell”. It comes from the words ‘Fū’ which means wind and ‘rin’ which means bell. Over in the western world we just cay Japanese wind chimes and we may have seen them many times in our daily lives because these chimes have found their way around the world.
The Fūrin consists of three parts and the first of those parts is the glass bowl at the top. Probably the most recognisable part to the entire thing. The bowl in ancient times were made from bronze because when the wind blew it was said that it spread disease and or evil and putting up a wind chime would help ward those diseases and evils away.
Secondly is the zetsu which literally means the ‘’clapper’’. This is a metal ball on the end of a string dangled from the middle of the glass bowl. Toward the bottom before the glass ball is now commonly a piece of rigid plastic wrapped around the string to help make the beautiful noises when the wind blows and makes the zetsu hit the sides of the glass bowl.
Lastly but by no means least is the paper element that dangles from the very end of the zetsu. This paper has significance and we all know that paper in many forms in Japanese culture has lots and lots of pure significance and ceremony. This paper dangling from the end has two main functions. First is that of catching the wind and allowing the zetsu to move gently making the beautiful sounds that we all know and love. And secondly it allows a person to acknowledge the presence of the wind because even when the gentlest of breezes is blowing the paper will move and a person can see that there is wind in the vicinity even if they cannot feel it on their own skin themselves yet. And of course, the writing on these pieces of paper can vary from place to place and within reason can be whatever you want them to be.
Patterns and Symbolising the Summer
The possibility for patterns on these are endless. But, they typically have flowers on them. This is for a very specific reason because in the modern day the chimes are used to symbolise the hot Japanese summer. To place a cooling sound on the intense heat of hot summers day.
You will find hundreds of different patterns when searching for Fūrin and you will almost certainly find the thing you are looking for. From delicate patterns to simplistic flowers right up to the most extravagant summer-based designs and almost bouquet like flower arrangements painted right on the glass. A beautiful picture, a beautiful noise, wind and a hot summers day: a match made in heaven.
You can buy Fūrin in hundreds of stores right across Japan and here in the west you can find Asian supermarkets that often have little items such as chimes and fans and chopsticks. These places you will undoubtedly find some. And if you aren’t in Japan you can buy them online in the thousands on many websites simply by searching in your browser.
So, there you have it, the Japanese wind chime or Fūrin. These beautiful things will brighten up your summer wherever you are in the world and if you know someone who is a Japanophile (a non-native that loves Japan) then this would make the perfect gift. Enjoy the summer and enjoy this beautiful noise to relax you on those days and don’t forget to take a moment to be in those moments.
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