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Last Update 06/03/08

Furin -- Japanese Garden Bells
excerpts from Furin (Wind Chimes) The Japanese and Sound

Traditional Japanese Owl Garden BellIn Japan the call of the Small Cuckoo provides a feeling of early summer, the humming of the cicada, midsummer and the gentle whistling of wind, the coming of autumn. Depictions of these sounds in Haiku (17-syllable poems) and Waka (31-syllable verses) are familiar to Japanese people. Traditionally, Japanese people have appreciated the beauty of the seasons expressed in a range of natural events and typically connect various sounds to these seasonal changes.

The sound of Furin, a small type of bell or wind chime, is one of the sounds JapaneseTraditional Japanese Green Bird Furin people enjoy. These are typically made from glass, metal or ceramics and when suspended in the breeze, a tongue dangling in the center of the bell strikes the sides of the bell and delivers a pleasant sound.

Bells exist throughout the world, and have served important roles as for instance, talismen to avert evil and keep time. The scene of a watch-night bell ringing out the old year is well known in Japan.

The direct predecessor of the Furin is thought to be a category of bells known as Futaku (hanging bells) that were used in Buddhism halls and towers in China and were in the Kamakura Period (1192 - 1333). The enjoyment of Furin sounds become popular among the general populace in the Muromachi Period (1336 - 1573), and Furin hung under the eaves to provide a sense of cool in summer became the custom.

Traditional Japanese Dragonfly FurinIn the Edo Period (1603 - 1867), sales of Furin by peddlers carrying their wares on poles resting on their shoulders began the spread of the custom across the nation, adding a special charm to summer. Interestingly, although a hawking cry was essential for ordinary peddlers, the Furin peddlers did not require such a cry. The glass-made Furin of the Edo Period called Edo-Furin is a decorated with paintings and became a representative modern Japanese wind chimes.

These days, Furin are not always welcomed because of the dense urban housing conditions, but the distinctive sound symbolizes summer, and during the hot humid season signifies a breeze.

Recently, Furin markets have been opened. The Furin Fair celebrated itsTraditonal Goldfish Lucky Furin fifth anniversary this year. The fair is held around July 20 every year in the sanctuaries of the Kawasaki Daishi Temple (in the suburbs of Tokyo), which after New Year ceremonies attracts Japan's second highest number of visitors. This year's participants will be able to enjoy a variety of pleasant sounds and shapes from 650 types and more than 25,000 Furin pieces collected from around the country. The fair has become increasingly familiar as a popular cultural event in summer attracting crowds of about 200,000 for the four-day event.

Marubeni quarterly magazine "shosha" VOL.64(July,2000)
(C)Marubeni Corporation


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