Photo:© Alma Reyes

Tinkling Chimes at the Kawasaki Daishi Temple

Japanese culture is largely shaped by religious doctrines that often use objects to welcome the good or drive away the evil. During New Year, for instance, the shimenawa or braided ropes with zigzag paper cut hangings displayed on doors of households, outside shops, or at the gates of shrines symbolize the ousting of evil spirits, as well as prosperity. The kadomatsu or pine tree in bamboo decoration placed at entrance doors, however, welcomes the god of harvest, and therefore brings happiness and long life. Likewise, in summer, particularly due to the season’s affiliation with prayers for the departed souls, many traditional symbols appear in festivities to cast away evil spirits or wash away the sufferings of ancestors. Fireworks and lit lanterns are some of them, as well as hanging wind chimes on doors and windows. For Japanese, the jingling sounds of chimes also call the overture for the beginning of summer.

Photo by © Alma Reyes
Photo by © Alma Reyes

Many Japanese rushed to the Kawasaki Daishi Furin-Ichi Wind Chime Market at the Kawasaki Daishi Temple on July 17-21 to witness around 30,000 chimes of over 900 varieties coming from 47 prefectures all over Japan. Some of these varieties included: ceramic, glass, metal, bamboo, bronze, clay, crystal and so on. Kawasaki Daishi Temple, while not quite known to many tourists, has always been dedicated to the warding of evil through its ceremonies of purification, such as the Yakudoshi (unlucky or critical age in a person’s life), blessings of talismans and charms, burning rites during New Year, year-end cleaning ritual using long brooms, and others.

The temple was constructed by the Buddhist priest Sonken and samurai Hirama Kanenori of Emperor Sutoku’s reign (1119-1164) who was said to have seen a miraculous site of the Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi’s statue in a river; therefore, giving it the temple’s name. Considered to be the host city for one of the nation’s biggest wind chime market, the Kawasaki Daishi has been blessed with the name “Wind Bell City”, and has erected a wind-bell storehouse on its site.

Photo by © Alma Reyes
Photo by © Alma Reyes

Wind chimes have long existed in Japan for over 2000 years. Originating in China, they served multiple purposes during the olden days: as tools used by for fortune-tellers to predict a person’s future by the direction of the wind or the sound of the bell; as elements to protect shrines and temples from evil; as media of driving away bad spirits used in exorcism rituals; and as warning signals of military attacks or natural disasters, especially during wartime. Buddhism first introduced them as dotaku (bronze bells) until they evolved into futaku (bronze wind chimes). Then, during the 18th–19th centuries, glass blowing techniques were introduced from Holland into Nagasaki where the manufacturing of furin glass chimes had been popularized.

Photo by © Alma Reyes

A typical Japanese summer scenario, as depicted in the media, is a lady or man in a yukata fanning herself or himself while resting on a tatami floor as the clinking sound of the wind chime echoes around the home. The chimes are said to effuse not only relaxation from the summer heat, but also peaceful reminders of prayers for lost families and loved ones. Such is the sensation one feels when being immersed in the orchestra of sounds resonating all over the Kawasaki Daisha Temple during this market festival. Colorful designs of red carps, flowers, leaves, birds, and fruits emote such a soothing and cheerful feeling, like rainbow candy drops falling form the summer sky.

Photo by © Alma Reyes
Photo by © Alma Reyes

The market is organized by booths representing the special crafts from different regions all over Japan. The Suwa glass chimes from Nagano prefecture have a smoked, milky appearance in soft-colored floral patterns. Sosaku glass chimes from Kanagawa prefecture are bell-shaped in thick glaze and deeper colors, similar to the Kamo chimes from Shizuoka prefecture. The Yamagata pottery chimes are unusually shaped like onions or cones. The renowned Shigaraki pottery and glass craft in pastel hues and blots of white paint in glazed effect can be seen at the Shiga prefecture booth. Iwate prefecture, known for their Nambu tekki bronze craft displays black and green Nambu tekki chimes. You can find chic brown and white Agano-yaki pottery wind chimes from Fukuoka, Tokoname-yaki earthenware styles from Aichi, brightly colored Kitakata gold and silver lacquerware wind chimes from Fukushima, and more. The Tokyo and Edo round glass chimes are decorated in charming summer motifs, such as carps, peony and sunflowers, and Mt. Fuji. Kawasaki Daishi temple has its own chime design showing the Buddhist traditional motif Daruma. There are also uniquely styled chimes like the Hanagasa chimes from Aomori prefecture, illustrating multi-colored floral-decorated straw umbrella hats; animation character chimes (Mickey Mouse, Doraemon); and chimes made of plants and moss.

Photo by © Alma Reyes
Photo by © Alma Reyes

The chimes are priced over 1500 yen up since they are beautifully crafted by artisans from various local regions; therefore, making it an absolutely rare opportunity to view them. A visit to the Kawasaki Daishi Temple for this purpose alone is quite worthwhile, especially if you enjoy the sight and sounds of wind chimes. Even if you are not buying, simply adoring the wide range of designs, shapes and colors is a feast to the eyes. The tinkling melodies of the chimes remain with you for the rest of the hot, summer day.

Kawasaki Daishi Furin-Ichi Wind Chime Market

Kawasaki Daishi Temple

July 17-21

Access: 3-minute walk from Kawasaki Daishi station, Keikyu Kawasaki line from Kawasaki station.

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