One of the symbols of summer in Japan is the furin (風鈴), wind bells made of glass.
Like most things Japanese, furin arrived in Japan from China about two thousand years ago through Buddhism. Originally used to protect temples from evil spirits, furin provide aural comfort from the summer’s heat. Many homes in Japan don’t have air conditioning, so people hang furin in open windows. The blowing breeze causes the bead clapper to hit the glass, creating the tinkling sound of ice in a cool beverage. The melodious ringing of the bell refreshes and relaxes the Japanese.
I have two beautiful furin. This one is painted with lovely flowers, and the strip of paper, which catches the wind and makes the clapper hit the bell, says “Edo Furin” (江戸風鈴).
Instead of a paper strip, this furin has a piece of tenugui, a cloth that has a long history in Japan. This is a gift from Ruri Kippenbrock of Wuhao New York, an online tenugui store. Ruri-san presented this furin to me at the most recent Japan Block Fair.
I’ll use these beautiful furin as decoration in lieu of putting them in an open window. Even though I like the gentle chime of the bell, I plan on having the AC cranked all summer!