The Yomiuri Shimbun December 11, 2017
Shimekazari are rice straw decorations generally put up in or outside Japanese homes to welcome the Toshigami god that bestows good fortune on New Year’s Day. Although shimekazari remain a fixture of modern Japanese households, many lack knowledge of their various characteristics.
There are actually a wide variety of shimekazari that differ by size, design and decoration, and they often differ by region. Each ornament has unique features and beauty, according to a recently published book by graphic designer Sumako Mori.
Titled Shimekazari: Shinnen no Negai o Musubu Katachi (Shimekazari: shapes looped with wishes for the New Year), the 200-page book is based on field research Mori conducted over many years.
Mori became interested in shimekazari while working on a research project about the traditional ornament for her graduation from art school. Ever since, she has traveled throughout the country around the New Year holiday to observe how locals decorate home entrances or kamidana home altars with shimekazari.
The book illustrates the ornaments’ beauty through black-and-white and full-color photos Mori took, and describes her encounters with rice farmers and craftspeople. It also explains various decorations attached to shimekazari, such as fans and daidai bitter orange [which is considered a good omen because ‘daidai’ can be translated as “from generation to generation”, signifying longevity of the household].
“At first sight, shimekazari pieces appear identical, but they each have their own distinctive shapes,” Mori said. “I hope readers will rediscover the beauty of the decoration.”