Refreshingly clear sounds of furin wind chimes

Based in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, Shinohara Furin Honpo makes Edo Furin — transparent hand-blown glass chimes.
PHOTO: The Japan News/ANN

Tinkle, tinkle. Tinkle, tinkle - the refreshing sounds of Japanese wind chimes known as furin bring an air of coolness to the sweltering summer heat. Traditionally hung outside, their sounds can also be enjoyed indoors using special stands.

Wind chimes are made in a variety of styles - some are even local specialties. Each one has its own distinct sound, meaning there's something for everyone.

Kanazawa Institute of Technology Prof. Yoshio Tsuchida is a furin enthusiast. He has collected rare wind chimes from across the nation during his study of how the mind is influenced by various sounds in everyday life.

Furin's prototype is said to be "futaku," which arrived in Japan through Buddhism and was hung from the corners of temple roofs to dispel evil spirits. Around the end of the Edo period (1603-1867), citizens began hanging wind chimes from the edge of the eaves of their homes for summer refreshment.

Many modern-day houses are built without eaves or engawa porches suited for hanging wind chimes, however, which some regard as mere noise.

"People become uncomfortable when they hear sounds that aren't familiar to their everyday life," Tsuchida said. "Furin are sadly not as big a part of our lives as before, but I hope people enjoy their sounds while being considerate to others."

Tones and loudness depend on the type - glass wind chimes, for example, are less resonant and quieter, meaning they are less likely to disturb neighbours when hung from laundry poles outside.

Based in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward, Shinohara Furin Honpo makes transparent hand-blown glass chimes called Edo Furin that feature a range of hand-painted summery motifs from morning glory and goldfish to fireworks.

"They have a gentle sound, and people can feel cooler just by looking at them," Tsuchida said.

Indoor stands are available for those without any places to hang the chimes.

Wind chimes made of such metals as iron and brass have a louder resonating sound. Odawara Imono Kenkyujo, a nonprofit organisation that studies metal casting and furin sounds, offers Sahari Furin made of copper and tin alloys with a deep and clear tone.

Tsuchida said that metal wind chimes should be enjoyed indoors since they can be pretty loud. "Whether you're hanging them outside or just out the window, you should be considerate to others and bring them in at night and on windy days," Tsuchida said.

Metal wind chimes featuring rod-shaped designs are quieter than the bell-shaped variety. Tsuchida's favourite of this type is Myochin Hibashi Furin, manufactured by Myochin Honpo in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture.

The company traditionally manufactures hibashi, metal chopsticks used to handle charcoal. Spurred by the fantastic sounds of iron chopsticks striking each other, the company developed hibashi wind chimes - now a Himeji specialty.

In 2013, Tsuchida created Kanazawa Furin using washi Japanese paper, themed on the city of Kanazawa. The product features brass tubes and a ¥5 (S$5.55 cents) coin that produce gentle rings.

"Each handmade furin has a unique sound, and that goes for the ones with the same material and shape - let alone those in different shapes made with different material," Tsuchida said. "So have a listen to find your favourite one."