About Japanese Customs upon Welcoming the New Year

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Happy New Year!!

 

As this is our first edition on our blog in 2017, I would like to provide a simple guideline and speak upon Japanese customs related to our new year celebration.

 

We call the days from January 1st to the 3rd “San ga nichi”, an auspicious time to appreciate the fact that we were able to welcome the new year. This is the time we call “oshougatsu” as a whole, and many people take days off for the holidays to spend time with families and to have a grand celebration, although much more quiet than in the U.S. for comparison.

 

During oshogatsu period, we have distinct customs and one of them is decorating a “shimenawa”, a sacred or holy straw rope tied in a knot, on the front door. This can be traced back to Shintoism in Japan. It was said in the past that every year, that particular year’s divine spirit would be present on earth from the heavens and as a preparation to welcome the divine god we decorate our doors with the shimenawa, the holy rope.

 

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In addition, we have a custom of sending greeting cards at the end of the year to those we are indebted to through associations in the passing year. Or, “osechi” cuisine that is only consumed during the oshogatsu period, and also a ritual to pay one’s respect to the shrine. These customs are deeply engrained in the fabric of our culture even today.

 

We have shipped our rain chains to many different countries but I assume that every country has its own customs to welcome the new year. Sometime in the future, I hope to spend the new year season in other countries to experience its unique custom.

 

As in the years past, we received many orders from various countries abroad and even received pictures of them being installed!

 

I wish all those that purchased our proud handmade rain chains and everyone visiting our site a Happy New Year and wish for a prosperous 2017!!

 

About “Gargoyles” on massive gothic architecture in the West.

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In the West, rain spouts called Gargoyles exist. The origin is from the French word gargouille. It means “throat”, perhaps being named for the fact that it sticks out from the buildings and its function is to drain rain water.

 

They are often a part of large cathedrals, and they are usually fantastic animals made of stone. It has been written that although it is used on large churches, they are not religious in meaning but are functioning ornamental rain spouts.

 

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Rain chains would be Japan’s equivalent of decorative spouts that incorporate rain water, but stone is rarely used in Japanese architecture, and instead wood or thatches are used, as well as fired material such as Japanese roof tiles. Perhaps this aspect of cultural difference in architecture prevented Japan from stone-made decorative spouts such as Gargoyles.

 

Attempts have been made to stylize rain spouts around the world and each country’s architectural culture had a great impact on the type of rain spouts such as “Gargoyles” or our Japanese rain chains, both having highly stylized form while incorporating rain water.

Our rain chain “Toh” now has a larger model in size L, which will drain water even for truly oversized roofs.

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In addition to “Toh” rain chain with conventional size, a slightly larger “Toh L” is now available. Larger 60mm diameter is one and a half times larger than the 45mm of its predecessor.

Keeping the three varied cylinder sizes on the chain for a random feeling in its design, we increased the drainage capacity for adaptability to buildings with larger roofs.

 

The Toh rain chain was developed with a concept of positive adaptability to modern architecture by reviewing the conventional rain chains from the past in Japan. As a result, we now find a great increase in number of scenes that display buildings with rain chains.

 

Japanese rain chains are unique type of drainage system, particularly because it has a design aspect as its main feature.

 

It has an ornamental quality as it displays water flowing gracefully down from the roof using only natural force. When thinking about decorations with water, the first thing that comes to mind is water fountains, but principally, they use electricity to jet the water. There is a global call to reduce consumption of fossil fuel, and rain chains are eco-friendly water ornamentation with a function that operates cleanly and provides aesthetic pleasure.

 

Speaking of functions, in principle, common gutters collect rain water from the roof and let it flow down the pipe shaped drain. But there are situations, due to building design, where gutters and pipes cause complications for draining water. In these settings, rain chains that hangs vertically down could provide a valid solution for rain drainage.

 

Our mission on developing “Toh” was renewing the designs of rain chains that possess outstanding decorative and functional qualities but limited to matching traditional Japanese architecture and to provide a makeover by redesigning it to fit modern architecture. On top of its design evolution, the improved drainage capacity will increase its applicability with the arrival of the larger L size model.

 

Please click below for performance comparisons of rain chains.

http://rainchainsjp.com/design-info/

About the cooper and stainless steel that are used for our rain chains

We use cooper and stainless steel for our rain chains. Each metal has unique characteristics so we will explain about their features:

rainchain_toh_c Toh Copper

  • About cooper
    The chemical symbol for cooper is Cu and has a unique red color on this simple metal substance. The use of cooper can be found dating back early as 9,000BC and due to having low electric resistance it is used widely such as electric lines and daily goods. Also, cooper has high water resistance and anticorrosion property while the color changing gradually from red to black and finally patina green. This color is formed by a compound called cooper carbonate, from the elements in the atmosphere and water. Cooper is often used on roofs of traditional buildings, adding beautiful patina green color to the scenery.

 

 

rainchain_toh_sToh silver color (SUS)

  • About Stainless Steel
    Stainless steel is an alloy made from mainly nickel and chromium. Highly durable and it is used under severe conditions. There are variations depending on the ratio of nickel and chromium and the most popular combination ratio is 18% nickel and 8% chromium which is called the SUS304 stainless steel alloy. It is a silver color metal used frequently around the kitchen and on construction materials among other variation of usage.

 

SEO Inc. mainly uses these two types of materials to manufacture our rain chains.

Visiting Ainokura Gassho-style Village

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There is a world heritage registered village in Toyama Prefecture.

At the foot of a mountain called Gokayama, there are dwellings with oversized thatched roofs. The angles of the roofs are very steep, shaped to slide off the snow.  The beams are made of local oak. The trees in this region are bent from the weight of the snow and bent oaks become very sturdy which holds up the thatched roof.

Inside the house, you will find a hearth constructed in the floor and the woods of the interior are blackened by oxidation from the smoke from the fireside. It is said that oxidation increases the longevity of the thatched roofs and in the past the roofs were changed once every 30~40 years. The folks used to grow silkworms on the upper floors, 2nd & 3rd, and on the first floor where the hearth is constructed, people made nitrates, which was treasured in the past because it was an essential ingredient for making gun powder.

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Cushions made from Washi, Japanese paper.

Paper making is also a popular in this tow

 

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The leaves have begun changing colors.

Ta-ke (Bamboo)

Ta-ke grows in humid and tropical climate in Asian regions, and is a plant that is very familiar to the Japanese.
The inside of bamboo is a hollow tube yet very flexible with great resistance to curving and traditionally it has been thinly sliced in a vertical fashion to make baskets. In Japan, we have many general goods made of Ta-ke, such as fences, screens and blinds, hand fans, or bamboo strainers called zaru as seen in the below picture.

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We produce rain chain product with a design of bamboo mesh.

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The product is Ajiro. The literal meaning of the word is an “alternative to rope”, taken from the past practice where the fisherman used bamboo basket material in place of ropes. The mesh is durable yet beautiful. Ajiro meshing is used in architecture as well, on decorating ceilings and bamboo fences. Our product Ajiro with bamboo mesh design expresses the “Wa” or the Japanese aesthetic sensibilities.

 

 

Copper: About aging.

We have rain chain products made from copper material.
The cooper versions of Ta-ke and Toh, as well as Ajiro, are all non-coated. This causes gradual and intentional change of color with daily use.

With time, the change in colors can be observed from the original reddish brown to dark brown and finally to bluish-green patina color. The patina that forms on the surface of copper is caused by oxidization and when this appears on the surface of copper, it layers the material to give durability.

In Japan, copper was used on rooftops, among others, and when installed it will have a metallic sheen but after some time it evolves into the bluish-green patina.

 

Picture of our Ta-ke rain chain

 

At installation

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After six months

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And, after two years..

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In the beginning, you will see a light pinkish metallic sheen, but with time the sheen was gone and it turned to golden-brown.
After two years, the Ta-ke turned patina green slightly.

As you can see, the copper changes color gradually, providing great viewing pleasure.

About water flow on Tama Rain Chain

 

How aesthetically the rain chain delivers rainwater to the ground is an important key when selecting your rain chain. The rain chain I would like to introduce to you today is from a video clip I received from a resident in the United States, our rain chain called Tama.

 

You can see that water is flowing in the center without dispersion and this is because there is a part installed in there that directs water to the middle.

 

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This part is installed to the center of every chain piece, collecting water every time as water flows from piece to piece, making it possible for such a beautiful water flow.

 

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Since the particular part is made of stainless steel, the metal will endure severe environment on a long term basis where rain might fall frequently.

 

The inner part is also used on other products as well, such as on Toh and Ta-ke where the same elegant water flow is achieved.

 

 

As you can see, when selecting the right rain chain, in addition to design, water flow could be another deciding factor.