Furin (or Fuurin) essentially translates to ‘wind bell’ and describes the Japanese wind chime. Just like how eating an ice cream cone may make you nostalgic for summertime, the sound of a furin sends a Japanese person to their happy place in summer.
Widely known and accepted as the symbol of summer in Japan, when anyone hears the gentle ringing sounds of the wind chime, they become immediately washed over with a refreshing feeling.
It may be a cultural thing, but many Japanese people insist that hearing and seeing the furin sway in the wind actually makes them feel cooler and more relaxed – a must for the balmy Japanese summer nights!
If you’ve visited Japan during the warm months, you may have seen and heard Japanese wind chimes hanging outside places of residences. These days, they’re normally quite cheerful and bright.
In this blog post, we will explain you from where this tradition comes from, how they are made and how furin wind chimes are used in modern Japan. Enjoy!
What’s A Furin?
So what exactly is a furin? To start, we’ll give you a basic description of what it looks like and consists of, however, note that there exist thousands of versions of wind chimes in Japan today.
A furin is a Japanese wind chime that is consists of three main parts: the ‘gaiken’ which is the bell- or bowl-shaped exterior, the ‘zetsu’ which is the clapper inside the gaiken, and the ‘tanzaku’ which are the colourful strips of paper that hang down and flutter in the wind.
When the breeze catches and moves the tanzaku, the zetsu will chime inside the gaiken, producing the gentle ringing sounds that everyone loves.
You will likely see these hanging outside of people’s homes, either near the windows or along the balcony and people believe they are cute good fortune charms.
The History Of Furin In Japan
Today, Japanese wind chimes may seem like just a fun ornament to hang around the home, but it’s actually got quite a long history!
It’s said to have had roots that date back to more than 1200 years ago. It was inspired by the Chinese fortune-telling tool, the ‘senfutaku’, which was used to determine whether good or bad fortune was incoming based on the sounds that were made. The sounds associated with the senfutaku was meant to inspire the feeling of divinity.
During the Heian period, the use of these tools spread throughout Japan predominantly in Buddhist temples.
Over time, they also spread into the homes of Heian nobility, who used them as a protection charm against bad luck and evil spirits entering the home. Eventually, these ornaments made their way into the common home, which brings us to today!
Japanese furin charms were historically made of bronze. However, in the 18th century, glassmaking techniques were introduced to Japan via the merchants trading in the Nagasaki region, thus changing the course of the production.
Whilst initially very expensive to purchase, the popularity of Japanese glass furin exploded in the 19th century, making it a booming market.
These days, however, you can come across furin made of all sorts of material, including bronze – but glass is definitely still the most popular.
How Are Japanese Wind Chimes Made
Glass furin are made by blowing glass. Contrary to popular belief, a mould is not used!
Instead, craftsmen delicately hand-blow small bubble-like shapes of glass. A wire to hang the ornament is inserted into the glass bubble during the blowing process. The design of the furin is artfully hand-painted from the inside of the glass.
There are still places around Japan that produce the traditional style furin; for example, Iwate prefecture’s Nambu wind chimes. For this particular type of furin, a mould that is made of a combination of sand and clay is created with delicate designs. Molten iron is carefully poured in to create the shape. It is then fired over charcoal at 800 degrees Celsius, a process which is referred to as ‘kinki teki’.
Nambu furin tend to have a more clunky look than glass furin, however, their crisp metallic sound is something quite special.
Japanese furin are such a beloved ornament that they’re often used as craft projects in school! Students will partake in creating furin using plastic cups.
How To Use Furin
Traditionally, Japanese wind chimes were hung at sacred sites and temples to ward off evil, but these days, they’re also often hung on balconies and outside windows to catch the summer breeze. A number of temples and shrines still host furin festivals in summer.
As mentioned previously, many Japanese people feel relaxed and nostalgic when they hear the wind chimes and thus hang them outside during summer simply for that feeling.
In recent times, you’ll find less and less of them in apartment buildings though, as complaints have rocketed with neighbours not wanting to hear the furin chimes of others all summer long!
Where To Buy Japanese Wind Chimes Online
We are selling Japanese Furin in our online store so if you are not coming to Japan anytime soon, this is the best option for you. 5 colors are available and the bells are made in glass.
Where To Buy Japanese Wind Chimes in Japan
Furin wind chimes are actually a lot more popular than you think! They are mass produced around Japan, with certain prefectures putting their own spin to it using local goods.
Shinohara Furin Honpo
For those shopping around Tokyo, check out Shinohara Furin Honpo (details below). This shop has been around for a while, and the best thing about it is you can opt to create your own Japanese furin here. Not only do you get a completely unique wind chime but you also get an unforgettable experience. Check it out whilst you’re in Tokyo!
- Address: 4 Chome-25-10 Taito, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0016, Japan
- Hours: 10:30am – 6:00pm
Kawasaki Daishi Temple
If you’re around Kawasaki during summer, don’t miss out on the Wind Chime Market held at Kawasaki Daishi Temple. This is a popular annual market that is held across 5 days every July. Expect to see more than 30,000 wind chimes in 900 varieties here, with furin craftsmen traveling all across Japan to trade here.
- Address: 4-48 Daishimachi, Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 210-0816, Japan
- Date: Mid-July
- Access: It is an 8-minute walk from Kawasaki Daishi Temple
One of the most special features of the Japanese furin is that it is so inherently Japanese. From its delicate design to the art painted on, to the tinkling of the sounds it makes, you will feel the essence of Japan.
If you’re looking for a little escape in summertime, bring a slice of Japan back to your home with a Japanese furin. Soon, just like an ice cream cone on a hot summer afternoon, the furin will become your summertime nostalgia, much like the people of Japan.