Japanese wind chimes, also known as furin, are a summer staple in Japan and often adorn Japanese homes, businesses, temples, and shrines, with their beautiful sound and colorful appearance.
If you have ever visited Japan during the summer then the chances are that you have seen and heard the many windchimes dotted around neighborhoods Called “furin” literally meaning wind bell, (fu – wind) (rin – bell), these wind chimes are commonly hung up outside of shops, temples, and homes.
Their beautiful sound is thought to provoke a cool feeling in those that hear it on a hot summer’s day. There are many different places where you can purchase your own set of Japanese wind chimes or you can choose to make your own at specialty shops in Tokyo and beyond and decorate them how you wish.
Here we’ll tell you all about the history of the Japanese wind chimes, the different elements, how they are made, and where to buy them. So, to learn more about furin explore them with us.
The history of Japanese summer wind chimes
Originating in China, these summer wind chimes were used as a method of telling a person’s fortune. Traditionally, the wind chimes were hung up in a bamboo forest, and predictions were made about a person’s future based on the sound and the direction of the wind.
However, the wind chimes arrived in Japan along with Buddhism and now serve other functions in modern-day society. But, traditionally in Japan, the Furin was used as a way to ward off evil spirits and save people from bad fortune.
It was believed that a strong wind was an indication of an epidemic. So a type of chime called “Futaku” was created which consisted of a bell-shaped wind chime made out of bronze. The noise that these chimes made was believed to be a form of protection from epidemics and bad omens.
Usually, these bell chimes were hung around temples, shrines, and other sacred places, not only to protect the people but the noise that they made also aided the calming atmosphere of these locations.
The summer chimes are now used more as a decorative item than as a way to ward off spirits and the calming sound of the chimes only adds to the experience of a Japanese summer.
The earliest Japanese wind chimes were made out of bronze but by the dawn of the 18th century, Dutch glass techniques were introduced to the country and this had a significant impact on both the design and the materials used for the wind chimes.
The introduction of glass into the making of wind chimes not only had an aesthetic impact but also a change in the sound of the wind chimes.
The different components
There are three main parts of a Japanese wind chime: the bell, the clapper, and the paper. The glass bell is the largest part of the furin and can either be entirely clear or can be decorated. The bell is the part from which the clapper and paper are hung.
The clapper, also known as “Zetsu” is the part that rattles in the wind and produces a wonderful sound. From the bottom of the clapper, a piece of paper is hung and this can also be decorated as desired.
How to make the wind chime
The glass bell of the furin is constructed by using traditional glass-blowing techniques. The hot glass is blown up to the size of a large lime or orange. The glass is then collected and molded to form the well-recognized bell shape of the furin.
A hole through which to hand the clapper is created by air. Once the glass has cooled the bell can then be decorated on the inside, the clapper hung and the decorative paper attached.
In some regions, there are different techniques employed to make the furin. For example, in the Iwate prefecture, furin is made from metal using traditional iron techniques. Although this furin is significantly heavier than their glass counterparts they do make a lovely metallic sound.
The hanging paper
The decorative paper that you will see hanging from the clapper has the purpose of catching the wind. This movement will move the paper and hence the clapper that it is attached to, producing the tinkling sound in a slight breeze.
Where to buy Japanese summer wind chimes
If you are heading to Japan and you want to purchase furin as a gift or souvenir then one of the best places to look in the entire of Japan is the Tenzou Furin Shop, Tokyo. This shop has been in operation for more than 50 years and here you may even have the pleasure of seeing how the furin are made and getting to experience this for yourself.
During the summer months, there are many different pop-up booths and shops all over the city that sell wind chimes. You will be able to purchase both traditional and more modern versions of furin.
Furin summer wind chimes give Japanese homes a special charm during the hotter months. Although traditionally used as a way to ward off evil spirits and help protect people from possible upcoming epidemics, in more modern times the wind chimes are used for decorative purposes. Their sound and colorful designs brighten anywhere they are hung.
There are many different types of furin available in Japan, and this changes from region to region. Although the traditional versions were made from metal, the introduction of Dutch glass techniques meant that the majority of modern furin are now made from glass. However, some metal versions are still made today.
If you are looking to purchase your very own Japanese summer wind chimes then there are many different places all over Japan that sell them. In some shops, you can even have a try at making your very own personalized one.