Antique Japanese Shinto shrine bell (suzu in Japanese). These bells are used by shrine visitors as a means of announcing their presence to the resident deity. Shinto is the native religion of Japan, and there are shrines (jinja) to many thousands of Gods throughout the country. Bells and rattles of different sorts are commonly found at the entrance to the shrine’s outer sanctuary where worship is performed.
About the Listed Item
This medium size (please see size information below) brass bell may have once graced the rafters of a shrine somewhere on the main Japanese island of Honshu. The bell is dented in places and quite weathered, with a rich dark patina from years of open air exposure. The bell is otherwise in fine condition with no cracks and a pleasant and very distinct ring. Suzu such as this normally have a limited service life due to their constant use (every shrine visitor will rattle it once or twice) and exposure to the elements. After serving a shrine for some years a suzu will normally be removed by a priest and possibly given as a gift to a shrine patron. Shrine bells are one of the few Shinto artifacts which are discharged from service and returned to the secular world after serving their term within the sanctified grounds of a shrine. This bell would make a beautiful decorative item and conversation piece, and represents a rare opportunity to honorably possess an authentic artifact of Japan’s native religion. This bell dates from the mid Japanese Showa period (1926-1989) or before and was acquired in the historic city of Shizuoka, Japan near the foot of Mt. Fuji. Please see below to learn more about Shinto.
Height of bell (excluding cushions): 5.1 inches (13.0 centimeters)
Diameter of bell: 3.9 inches (10.0 centimeters)
Length of rope (approximate): 19.1 inches (49.0 centimeters)
Weight: 9.8 ounces (281 grams)
Note about buying Japanese Shinto antiques
Many Shinto items such as ofuda, omamori, hamaya and shimenawa are thought to have limited powers which diminish over time. Japanese people therefore commonly dispose of such items each year in special burning ceremonies called dondoyaki, which are presided over by Shinto priests and performed on the grounds of the shrine. However, many Shinto items are not burned and may find new life as cherished religious items, sometimes with foreigners practicing Shinto outside Japan. Many of the Japanese we have discussed this with (including a Shinto priest) have been pleased to learn that old items of their native faith are often well received by Shinto believers abroad. However, we are sensitive to the fact that some may prefer to see their old Shinto items burned and for this reason we do offer a free disposal service. Anyone who wishes to have their Shinto items properly destroyed in a dondoyaki ceremony may send the items to us which we will hold and take to our local Shinto shrine for sanctioned disposal. Please contact us in advance if you wish to use this complementary service and we will provide you with the appropriate mailing address.
More about the Shinto religion
Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism). Shinto is often considered to be the native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself. The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.” Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist. The Japanese have built thousands of shrines throughout the country to honor and worship these gods. Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities. Other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside (please see the photo below showing our daughter at a very small local shrine near our home in Japan).
Shinto gods are called kami. Kami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami. The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii (red gates in the shrine photos below), cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine. Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope. The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle. This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god. The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again. In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer. Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan. Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.
item code: R1S6-0004457
ship code: G6