I Found Out What Furin Are

Man, I’m slow sometimes. (No comments, thank you!) I have been watching anime for years, multiple years, and only recently did I notice the windchimes. I saw them a lot in Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits,  then more recently in Yotsurio Biyori. When there was a quick scene of one in Cinderella 9, I suddenly clicked… Why is it always the same windchime?

You know what I’m talking about, those glass domes with a long thread that holds a clapper and what I think is a paper charm. Oh, right.. visual medium…I can just show you..TADA:

animw furin

I’m thinking of creating a Pinterest board for these

You should know that part of the reason I never focused on these is that I didn’t even recognize them as wind chimes. Due to the weather around here, glass meant for outside tends to be thick and heavily tempered. Not the type that makes a pretty sound. So for me, wind chimes have always been something like this:

image__25227.1498596964

Ha! Visual medium!

So I wasn’t sure if those pretty domes where some type of general decoration or maybe a charm (like hanging a horseshoe above a door) or whether they actually made a pleasant sound.

You know how it is. You can go your whole life without ever noticing something but as soon as you do, you see it everywhere! It’s called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Since I am one curious Kitty indeed, once I did notice them, I decided to look them up. I wanted to know if there was some special reason they were so common in anime. A symbolic meaning or something. Or if it was just a question of them being common n Japan and art imitating life.

The first thing I found out is that they are called furin. If you don’t want to sound like an adorable idiot as I did for a few days, do not call them furin wind chimes, that’s redundant. Apparently, Furin already means wind chime or more precisely Fu means wind (I thought it was Kaze? Stop being confusing Japanese!) And rin means bell. So they would be wind bells. Makes sense, they do in fact look like bells instead of well, chimes…

As for why they are in anime, symbolism or simple realism? Turns out it’s both. The reason I couldn’t quite grasp if Furin were instruments, decorations or charms is because they are all these things. Certainly, they are very pretty to look at, with those lovely (sometimes beautifully painted)  glass domes. Adding see-through objects in anime is always eye-catching. Artists get to play with how the reflect light while showing the scenery behind. It tends to be an impressive effect that’s fairly easy to pull off even in an underfunded Anime.

Komochi.furinjpg

how is the water staying in? by Komochi

For the record originally Furin were in fact made of bronze rather than glass. Wind chimes, particularly bell-shaped chimes have longtime associations with fortune telling in Asia (and a few other parts of the world). In China, in particular, they where thought to be divination tools as they believed you could predict good or bad fortune based on the direction of the wind. I wonder if the expression knowing which way the wind blows comes from this… The internet tells me that these bronze bell wind chimes (Senfutaku) use to be hung in bamboo forests and used to predict the upcoming fortunes of the neighbouring villages.

Eventually, quite a long time ago, these chimes made their way to Japan where they were renamed simply Futaku and were attributed slightly more active powers. The legend goes that anyone in hearing range of the sound of the bell would be protected from disaster and evil spirits!

On a more practical level, strong winds were associated with epidemics in Japan. The humidity and temperature make the islands hospitable to air born pathogens so I can see the logic behind this belief. In that way, the bronze Futaku were almost like an alarm system. They told people to be careful and watch out for possible infection. Futaku were traditionally hung in places of respect such as temples, palaces and the likes. Eventually, simpler versions were created for the common folk called Furin.

From what I gather, Furin went from bronze to glass during the Edo period. Galsswrok has recently been introduced in Japan and glass decorations were considered very fashionable, and prestigious. Of course, they were also quite expensive. As such, the simple bronze Furin became a prized decoration and people started to display them proudly, not only for their spiritual and traditional elements but also to show them off as objets d’art.

In case you’re wondering that piece of paper that hangs down from the bell is not a charm (like I thought). It’s mostly utilitarian as the larger surface area of the paper catches the wind it moves the clapper inside the bell ich produces the sound. That explanation is a little too practical for my tastes, so I went to find a slightly more poetic one. The light-weight paper moves easily even with a light breeze and can be seen from a distance. So the movement of the paper makes people acknowledge the presence of the wind. Cute, isn’t it?

Nowadays, Furin remain quite popular mostly as traditional decorations. The Japanese associate them with summer (a bit like the sound of cicadas). And since the jingle of a Furin means the presence of a cool breeze on a stifling summer day, some people consider them soothing and relaxing.

But the furin really is unique. The precise shape of that dome top bell creates a variety of frequencies when the clapper hits them which overlap at specific audio fluctuations. On to of that is layered the sound of the paper flapping in the wind. The entire experience is quite unique and when you’ve spent your entire childhood associating that one very precise sound with summer vacation, festivals and fun in the sun, it’s bound to hold some magic!

This certainly is a post no one ever asked for. But sometimes, it’s not about what you think you want! Hanging one of these on my porch is still impractical, I’m pretty sure one cooler day and it would crack immediately. This said I might get an indoor one. Use my hairdryer on it or something. Did you already know all about Furin? Do you have one? Can I see a picture?

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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25 Responses

  1. Fuu is the Chinese reading (on’yomi), kaze is the Japanese reading (kun’yomi).

    I know two of my cousins (from the same close family, so they obviously share a house) have a metal windchime similar to one of the images, but it has dolphins hanging off it instead.

    Irrelevant fact while we’re on the topic of dangly items: I once went to a Japanese festival and bought a dreamcatcher – one of those Native American ones with the feathers and beads. I thought it was odd a Japanese festival had exactly one dreamcatcher, but not fuurin (or something similar that was actually relevant to the festival).

  2. ManInBlack says:

    We had one of these until my nephew broke it when he was a wee baby! >.<

  3. A Library Archivist says:

    I had one of these for several years. Put it in a window so the air moving through would ring it. You get used to only hearing one tone from it. They aren’t like the multi-tube chimes. But they do ring in very light breeze. The problem is that the way they are sheared off means they break easily and after a few years the wind blew hard and it went “CLINK” and broke. The bronze bell one I’ve got is still going strong.

  4. David Boone (moonhawk81) says:

    You, Irina, are simply amazing!

  5. Dawnstorm says:

    Great post, it never really occured to me to think about them in this much detail. They always reminded me a little of jellyfish.

  6. Karandi says:

    I’ve always wondered why they are connected with Summer. There’s a few anime where characters are putting them out or away and they make a comment about it being Summer or not Summer. Do you know why they are associated with that season?

    • Irina says:

      I assume that in some regions at least they would crack during the winter. Japan is ridiculously humid so the wear on glass with temparature changes is going to show. They’re way more delicate than windows

  7. Lumi says:

    I realize now just how much emphasis there is on weather in the culture of Japan. From those little rain dolls to these furin. Fascinating stuff.

  8. I love the sound of wind chimes! Don’t think I have ever met a furin IRL, though.

  9. Tiger says:

    Wow, another amazing read, as always!

  10. Great and inormative post! I’ve seen these in plenty of anime, but never really paid them much attention to them. Thanks for the knowledge.

  11. Pete Davison says:

    As you say, this is one of those things you probably don’t notice unless it’s either by chance or someone points it out to you… from hereon I expect to be seeing these bloody things all over the place!

    Interesting stuff though, I love discovering little bits and pieces of cultural information like this, so thanks for sharing!

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