Fûrin, the sound of coolness

Konnichi wa !

Summer in Japan is a very particular season… especially with its really hot and humid heat. The humid subtropical climate make the weather not only hot – usually up to 38 degrees Celsius – but also very humid and difficult to bear with 80% to 95% humidity in the air. A real sauna !

During the stifling Japanese summer, it is possible to hear here and there a unique sound traditionally linked to the hot season :

This light tintinnabulation is the sound of a 風鈴 fûrin, a Japanese wind chime, an emblematic item of summertime. Fûrin is written using the kanjis meaning “wind” and “bell”. It consists of a suspended bell (sometimes tubes or rods) made of metal or wood, usually hung outside of a building or residence, as a visual and aural garden ornament, and is to be played by the wind.

The fûrin is made of a main part, usually a round-shaped bell like piece, in which is a clapper called 舌 zetsu or “tongue”. A string is attached to the clapper, and a piece of paper called 短冊tanzaku is attached to the other side of the string. When the wind is blowing, the tanzaku starts moving, making the zetsu dance, thus the chime peal!

Glass-made fûrin and its fish-shaped zetsu

Glass-made fûrin and its fish-shaped zetsu

Depending on which material they are made from, fûrin chimes produce different tones. However, they all have a thing in common : they sounds refreshing to Japanese people ears! Some compare it to the sound of suzumushi, a kind of Japanese cricket species which usually starts to chant when the weather become cooler, just before the beginning of fall. At the time air conditioner didn’t exist yet, and to bear the clammy heat, Japanese used to like the pleasant ringing of fûrin, from which they managed to feel the idea “coolness”, the “taste” of freshness. An air conditioner in the head in away ^^

Fûrin Matsuri – Wind chime festivals – are also organized in some temples during the hot season, in order to get the favors of the gods to overcome the summer witjout problem. These festivals are the occasion to gather hundreds of wind bells at the same time, offering a real refreshing concerto !

Nowadays, at a time Japan is actively searching for new ways of saving energy, some people see in little items form the past such as fûrin, hand fans, jimbeietc… a obviously modest alternative, but still an alternative to electricity-powered devices, that anybody can easily use to help them spending the summertime in a cool and moderate power consuming way. And if sustainability allows Japanese people to keep a link with traditions, there is no reason not to try out! A cute fûrin would make a good souvenir from your summer vacations in Japan ^^

Mata ne !!

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