In Japan, we have a custom to display something auspicious called “ENGI-MONO (縁起物), a bringer of good-luck”.

Each region has each ENGI-MONO continuing from ancient times based on the practices of the area. Of them, some have become very famous through the archipelago.

Shrine3This time, I would like to introduce one of the ENGI-MONO: “KUMADE (熊手)” which you can purchase at a market day held on “the Cock Fair Day (酉の日)” in November every year in specific shrines called “ŌTORI Shrine (鷲神社)”.

Why is it a cock? It doesn’t mean a chicken for dinner!
A cock is a member of 12 animals allocated in each day of the Chinese astrological calendar and it is a symbol of maturity or harvest.
So, the shrines which have legends in relation to a bird hold a fair in a day fell on a day of the cock of November in the calendar.

Talking about a KUMADE, it means a Japanese bamboo rake.
As it is said “rake in money” in English expression, a rake is a good-luck bringer for business success in Japan too.
So merchants, politicians, business owners or people in show business have a practice to purchase a large lucky rake on the day of cock of November, in the cock related shrine every year.

Shrine1On that special day, at around the evening, my husband and I also visited the shrine to thank the god’s protection and make a wish.
In front of the shrine, there is a huge white cloth installed to receive money offered by visitors because usual offertory-box is not big enough for this day.

After finishing the prayer, we headed to a street stall where we purchase our KUMADE every year, YES, it’s time to get the KUMADE!

Shrine2The master of the stall is waiting for you preparing your special KUMADE with your shop or company name. You can see numbers of such dedicated KUMADEs placed in the stall.

When we found our KUMADE with our shop name displayed there, we were relieved and a bit touched thinking “this shop didn’t forget us!”

“Good evening and welcome back! I was awaiting for you this year too” said the master taking our KUMADE down from the top of the display.

“How about this year’s one?” showing our KUMADE which is bigger than last year.
(In the practice, a KUMADE is getting larger and larger each year since your business is supposed to be growing every year)

“Well well, it is not too big this year?” said my husband realizing our KUMADE has quite “grown”!

“Oh no, this year should be as big as this!” said the master and now, the price negotiation gets started.

“Sir, the economy is not bad this year, so I prepared a bit bigger one for you. Are you ready to ride on this wave?” said the master.

“Alright, so how about this?” said my husband telling the master his reasonable price.

“Higher!” said the master trying to boost the price.

 My husband also tried not to accept the price and made effort. Then after all such conversations,

KUMADE1“OK sir, now it’s done!” said the master closing the deal.

However the shopping of KUMADE doesn’t finish here.

“Now that the price is settled, can you please give a bit more beautiful color to it?” said the master, which means to add some more money.

“Oh yes, so here you are, keep this gift”, said my husband adding some money on top of the decided price.

Then it really ends the deal.

As you can see, it is not a simple shopping by selling and buying at the firstly listed price.
The funny and lively exchange between seller and buyer develops by the master making the “atmosphere” hum which is exactly the rakish and urbane EDOKKO (true Tokyoite) style of business.

KUMADE2In the end, the master gave a call to all people around, saying “Everyone! Please lend me your hands for the IPPON-JIME (hand-clapping performed to celebrate the conclusion of business), are you ready!”

The people around the stall clapped their hands with 3-3-3-1 rhythm done once, and we finally could purchase our KUMADE this year too!

 

The Cock Fair Day is said to have started 200 years ago in EDO period.

EDOI imagine that there male merchants wearing nice KIMONOs visited shrines with beautiful ladies (GEISHA). Since EDOKKO is generally weak at flattering, especially in front of such beautiful ladies, he would have been proud of buying a huge KUMADE and returned home shouldering it.

Supposedly, the KUMADE used to be a simple bamboo rake at that time. However as a happiness bringer, it has become more and more gorgeous being added auspicious items such as OKAME (a round smiling woman mask), KOBAN (ancient Japanese gold coin), TAI (sea bream), INAHO (rice plant), KOME-DAWARA (rice bag), etc.

My KUMADEHere is our KUMADE purchased this year.

Finally, thank you very much for reading my blog this year, and I wish all of you and your family a prosperous and successful year 2016!