and the five senses
Words: Yoshiko Arakawa, Translation: Heather Glass
In this feature we introduce you to the many different ways in which omotenashi style hospitality is extended and the things in which it is given form, to appeal to the senses through the eyes, ears and palate of a guest. We trust we will help you to savour the best of Japan’s omotenashi culture, by alerting you to watch out for, listen out for and hone your sensitivity to these almost imperceptible ministrations.
Sound and omotenashi
Historically the Japanese have come up with many ingenious ways to remain cool in summer. They have devised fans, bamboo blinds, the sprinkling of water – and wind chimes.
The wind chime, or furin, provides both a visual and an auditory means of creating a sense of coolness, and has been beloved of many for hundreds of years as a poetic evocation of summer.
When the cool, clear tinkling of the furin echoes through the air and reaches the ears of a guest, it tells them that a breeze has passed through. In this way, Japanese have of old created a pleasant atmosphere by transforming breeze to aural colour.
Furin comes in many materials and timbres. There is the delicate tone of the tinkling Edo furin made of glass; the solid design and reverberating ding of the resonant Nanbu iron furin; the charcoal furin that promises cleaner air and the relaxing effect of negative ions; the ceramic furin with its characteristic dry, yet comforting sound;
the high-pitched, but still serene timbre of the brass furin that seeps into the body; the bamboo furin that evokes the ethnic sound of the gamelan or the xylophone – once begun, the list just keeps growing.
When the wind catches the strip of paper hanging from any of them and they sound freely with an irregular rhythm, the effect on the ear of the listener is an indescribable sense of relaxation. As the ears are cooled by the fluctuating, irregular, naturally generated rhythms, at a certain point the soul becomes calmer, and both mind and body are present and refreshed.