Shimekazari is said to come from shimenawa rope which is used in shrines to mark the boundaries of a sacred area.
In welcoming the New Year, it is hung over the front of the house to mark it as a sacred space. It is also used as a lucky charm to prevent misfortune or evil spirits from entering.
In Kyuushuu, especially in the Fukuoka and Miyazaki regions, the crane is often used as a design on shimekazari. Radially spread bundles of straw are positioned to indicate the wings and tail of a crane and the part that represents the beak is often colored in red. In rare cases, shimekazari may also have a turtle design.
Since ancient times, both the crane and the turtle have been valued as animals that bring good fortune and a long life. Their design has been a fixture at celebratory occasions. Pine, bamboo and plum trees as well as treasure ships are also added to the decoration of the shimekazari, combining, strong wishes for both a happy New Year and a long, healthy life.
Shimekazari, a New Year’s decoration, in some parts of the Chugoku region often uses red chilies along with shide, a zigzag-shaped paper streamer, and a bitter orange called daidai.
Chili has been used as a charm against evil sprits in many regions of the world. In Japan, it is hung over the front door of the house to prevent malicious spirits from entering.
Plants with thorns or a strong smell are also believed to work against evil spirits. In Setsubun, a spring ritual to drive devils away, some regions have the custom of inserting branches of the holly tree and a sardine head in the front door of the house. Shide are also hung to absorb misfortune and danger from the outside.
The “Shime” of shimekazari means “to occupy” and the shimenawa rope is used to mark the boundary of a sacred area where a God resides and to prevent impurities such as epidemics from entering it. It is also used as a seal to prevent good fortune from leaving the same area
The concept of Shimekazari is said to derive from this creation of a sacred space using the shimenawa.
Ainu is an ethnic group on the Northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Its culture uses a very distinctive pattern called Ainu-monyou or Ainu pattern for their clothes, furniture and ceremonial instruments.
Ainu have many differing designs largely based on two basic patterns: one is a swirl pattern called Moreu in Ainu language and the other is a parenthesis pattern called Aiuushi which means things with thorns. The patterns are designed not only for decoration, but also have some symbolic effect of warding off evil spirits. They are commonly embroidered in cuffs, collars and the hem of clothes. By looking at the pattern one can tell which region it comes from. There are many theories as to the origin of the patterns, but there is no definite explanation.
To express their fondness for the opposite sex, Ainu women used to give an embroidered tekunpe (a cloth to cover the back of the hand and wrist) and hoshi (a cloth to cover the shin) with Ainu pattern while men used to give menokomakiri (small sword) curved with Ainu pattern. Ainu people believed they imparted part of the soul to their handmade crafts and valued them accordingly.
Nowadays, Ainu patterns have more design varieties and have wider applications such as for skirts and blouses.
A hishaku is a utensil traditionally used to scoop water. Hishaku used to be made from bamboo with the handle fashioned from a branch of a tree. These days, they are mostly made of metal or plastic.
The size and use of hishaku vary. Although the wooden magarimono hishaku can only be seen at Temizusha (purification buildings where water is drawn) of shrines and temples, and sometimes at houses that admire Japanese elegance, it used to be a part of everyday life.
The origins of hishaku come from a hisago (gourd), which was broken in half. The word 'hisago' was pronounced in a different accent, becoming 'hisaku', which was then changed again into 'hishaku'.
It was traditionally thought that divine spirits dwell in places that are dented, or caved in, thus the hishaku was treated as a holy container.
Before wakamizumukae (meeting of the first water) on new year's day, people have prepared new hishaku for the drawing of water from a well or spring. The water that is drawn is then placed before the new year's deity, and used to rinse out the mouth, as well as to make ozoni (vegetable soup with rice cakes in it).
Since the hishaku is thought to have special powers, the water that it scoops is used in other ways, for example as holy water to be sprinkled in front of one's house as a talisman against evil and sickness. A hishaku hung from a pot hook acts as a charm to prevent fires.
The hagoita originated in China and was brought over to Japan during the Muromachi period. At first, it was only used as a toy, or as equipment to play hanetsuki (a badminton-like game), but it gradually became an article to drive away evil spirits, and later became a charm given to women on oshogatsu (new year's day).
During the Edo period, hagoita decorated with pictures of Kabuki actors were very popular. Today, the hagoita has been designated as a traditional Tokyo handicraft.
Since the Edo period, a famous fair called Hagoitaichi takes place at Asakusa Temple over three days from December 17th. Many visitors come each year. The decorated hagoita sold at this event are famous for being made in Kasukabe, or Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama Prefecture.
Additionally, at the Hagoitaichi, hagoita with pictures of the people who received the most attention during the year, are notable and are often taken up by the media.
Takashiba Deko House is a village in Takashiba, Nishida Town, Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture.
Deko house is a general name for five houses that have kept making Miharu dolls and spinning tops for many generations. The word 'deko' comes from 'deku', another word for a doll.
Takashiba Deko House makes Miharu spinning tops and red cattle dolls (one of Fukushima's symbols), as well as many talismans and good-luck charms like long-nosed goblins, droll fellows and stone-carved shrine dogs.
In the studio of Takashiba Deko House, visitors can observe working craftsmen who have inherited this 300-year-old tradition. Moreover, visitors can try painting, too.
Takashiba Deko House is a small village that preserves Fukushima's doll culture, and is a place that we should continue to preserve.
Furin is a small hanging bell that rings in the breeze. A tongue dangling in the center of the bell strikes the sides of the bell and creates a pleasant sound. Furin originates in “Sen-futaku,” which was suspended in the bamboo grove and used to tell fortunes in ancient China. It was introduced to Japan with Buddhism and called “Futaku,” whose sound was believed to get rid of evil. During the Kyoho era (1716-1735) of the Edo period, a glass furin was first made and became very popular among townspeople. Today there are many types of furin being made of a variety of materials and taking a variety of shapes, including glass-made Edo furin with lovely pictures, rugged Nanbu iron furin, Hibachi-furin (taking a shape of a traditional Japanese heater), unglazed clay bell, Sumi-furin made of combined pieces of charcoal. The cool sound of furin is one of the things that provide us with a feeling of summer.
Omamori is a kind of amulet offered by shrines. 'Shinsatsu', another kind of amulet, comes with a small pouch that holds a sacred object called 'goshinji' inside it.
People carry omamori with them as an assurance that their wish will come true or as protection from misfortune. Shinsatsu are mainly used for family prayers, while omamori are more often used for individual prayer.
Because omamori are for one particular year only, they lose their power at the end of the year. In the New Year, they may assume a different spiritual power, so old omamori are purified to remove their souls and burnt at this time.
There are omamori for many purposes like safe driving, safe delivery, good luck in studies and exams, happiness in marriage, as well as strange ones, such as protection for pets or IT equipment.