On my first or second day in Kyoto I recall observing a young woman diligently photographing all the noren along one of Kyoto’s most popular entertainment streets. At the time I thought it to be a little obsessive, but understandable given their generally attractive appearance. It was not long before I was smitten by the addictive power of noren and started to build my own collection, some of which are shown here, including a number that would also have been photographed by the young woman whose addiction had started earlier.
What are noren? In effect, they are rectangular lengths of fabric similar to curtains and as well as being used at the entry to commercial establishments, they are also used internally to divide spaces. They offer a very Japanese way for (mainly) traditional businesses to display their brand name/logo, which is typically written in kanji. Noren used at the entry to establishments are generally hung at between half to three-quarter length, with the more up-market venues tending towards longer noren. The final shot on this post (pic 15) is a good example of how the noren provides a reasonable measure of privacy to patrons, whilst offering a tantalising glimpse inside for we “mere mortals”.
I found noren to be more widely used in Kyoto, which is not surprising given Kyoto’s emphasis on traditional aspects of Japanese culture. Nevertheless, one also encounters noren within the more traditional areas of greater Tokyo, though I must say I do not recall seeing anyone in Tokyo with a serious noren addiction.
(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)
March 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm
Hello John, Thank you for sending your beautiful photos. The Noren in your photos are all so different andcharming. I like the photo where thebusiness owner is aware of attracting English speakers and he has a small signsaying “OPEN”. Yes, it was always a puzzle going into one ofthese shops because I never knew what delicacies they might be serving. So, there were always lots of surprises andthe chance to make new friends as well.
I have a noren packed away in my house. When I find it I will take a photo of it and show you. If you think you would like it, I would be very happy to give it to you. It is brand new. And the colours from memory are tan and gold. It is meant for home use and has no brands on it. It is purely decorative. I really have no use for it myself. I hope you are very well and your year has started smoothly. I’m amazed how quickly the time is getting away.
All the very best to you and yours.Kind regardsFaye