Shop around a traditional Japanese area, and you will see them. When visiting Japan, have you ever noticed those unusual “curtains” hanging outside the main entrances of traditional shops, izakayas and sometimes private homes?
They are called “noren.”
Izakaya (Japanese tapas) noren
Art in a functional form, Noren (暖簾) are traditional Japanese fabric dividers: hung between rooms, on walls, in doorways, or in windows. They usually have one or more vertical slits cut from the bottom to nearly the top of the fabric, allowing for easier passage or viewing. Noren are rectangular (though this is not always a rule) and come in many different materials, sizes, colors, and patterns.
A “tanuki/racoon dog,” often associated with drinking sake in Japan
Noren are traditionally used by shops and restaurants as a means of protection from the sun, wind, and dust; and for advertising space. Sentō (commercial bathhouses) also place noren across their entrances, typically blue in color for men and red for women, with the kanji 湯 (yu, litterally hot water) or the corresponding hiragana ゆ. They are also hung in the front entrance of shops to signify that the establishment is open for business, where they are always taken down at the end of the business day.
Calligraphy at a cake shop in Kyoto
As such beautiful souvenirs to take back home the next time you visit Japan, it would be a pity not to share the sight of them. There are still many shop curtains left in Shizuoka City and Prefecture (and of course all over Japan) in spite of all that modernizing, and I do meet a lot of them all along my bicycle wanderings or whenever I stroll down the streets of other cities in Japan.
Accordingly, here are samples of these little beauties!
A beautiful turnip noren at Tomii Japanese Restaurant (Shizuoka City)
A very subtle noren to indicate the shop sells wasabi; indicated by the tiny drawing at the bottom
A very traditional noren at a small izakaya
Not a furniture shop but a Japanese Restaurant
Restaurant specializing in Japanese yam cuisine
For the night owls, at an izakaya
At a big izakaya
Another one for night owls, at a small izakaya
Japanese traditional cake shop in Shimizu Ku (Shizuoka City)
Private entrance in Mishima City
A “mon” (Japanese family crest)
Intriguing mask at a sushi restaurant (Yaizu City)
To finish, a splendid private noren at a noren shop
Good hunting and don’t forget to visit specialized shops for great souvenirs to bring back home!