The straw made ornaments are called Shimenawa (しめ縄) and it is also called Shimekazari （しめ飾り）. There are many different types and sizes of these ornaments and the designs can vary depending on where they are made.
Shimenawa can be found in Shinto shrine all year around, but we normally decorate our home with the ornament only during new year seasons. It is usually hanged outside of an entrance door and the period of hanging the ornament vary depending on which area you live in Japan, but typically it is from 26th of December until 7th of January. Traditionally we started preparing for new year from 13th of December, that is called Kotohajime, so it can be hanged at the entrance anytime after that.
The used Shimenawa is generally brought to a local shrine for the purification (recently some shrines do not accept the used shimenawa for the purification, so you have to ask the shrine if they accept your shimenawa for you. If they do, you can leave it with them and throw a small cash to their offertory box (generally coins). The shrine generally burns the shimenawa on 15th of January.
You can also keep the shimenawa all year around. I personally keep the turtle shimenawa all year around at my home so we also sell them at our store in Aoyama when any of them are left
Anyway, you must be wondering what the s. himenawa is for? When you search on the internet the word “ Shimenawa”, you will find many literatures on this subject, so I will not explain in details here, but for example Wikipedia explains that “A space bound by shimenawa often indicates a sacred or pure space, such as that of a Shinto shrine. Shimenawa are believed to act as a ward against evil spirits”.
Some people use the same shimenawa every year, but because of the reason above, it has been believed that the shimenawa should be purchased or made every year so that the sacred place, which is your home, can be protected every year.
Although you can find the shimenawa at many places in Tokyo even at super markets, sadly many of them are made in other countries like China and it is often hard to find made in Japan Shimenawa. The shimenawa you can purchase at my shop is all made in Japan and the straw used for making it is of the newly cropped in Kyushu, so you can still smell nice scent of straw when you open the plastic bag and the color is still greenish brown rather than those of light brown sold at super markets.
Our shimenawa comes from Saga prefecture, which is in Kyushu area and they make those shimenawa which are unfamiliar to people in Tokyo, so every year many of our regular customers come to my shop to purchase them.
This type of Shimenawa is typical design with the round shimenawa.
This is a Japanese lobster design, called Ise-ebi.
Ise-ebi is often associated with celebration (because it jumps vigorously, so we believe that your performance for work etc improves), so this motif is used for various occasions in Japan. This ise-ebi design shimenawa is, however, unusual in Tokyo.
This is a turtle design. It has been believed that turtle lives for 10,000 years, so it represents longevity. The rice crop on the turtle shell expresses that the turtle has lived so long that seaweeds grew on the shell.
This type of shimenawa ornament is unusual in Tokyo area, so you do not find that at many places. The turtle can be kept at home after the new year and some people leave it somewhere in their living room as a part of an interior decoration.
There is the smaller turtle version of shimekazari. It is cute, isn’t it?
This is a crane design and is also unusual in Tokyo. A crane is also associated with longevity like turtle, because it has been believed that it lives for 1,000 years. The shape of wing has also good meaning. That is because the bottom area of the wing becomes wider from the top and that is called 末広がり (suehirogari). It litterally means a wider bottom. We believe that suehirogari indicates better future, wider perspective and prosperity.
Here is an orthodox shimenawa design, but still a bit unusual in a way that it has a little circle like P shape on the right.
Anyway there are many different designs of shimenawa in Japan and it is also fun to look at what kind of shimenawa each house hangs at their entrance and if you are interested, you can also try at your home during the new year season.
These handcrafted shimenawas are available at my store from mid November to the end of December every year. If you are interested in purchasing any of them please visit our shop in Tokyo.
Tax Free Shopping
When the total of your purchase exceeds over 5,000yen, you can claim for tax free shopping. We need your passport to do that, so please do not forget to bring it with you, when you visit our store in Tokyo.
How to purchase them?
You can either visit our store in Tokyo or you can send us emails and we can send them overseas by EMS or send them to those designated hotels or places within Japan where you specify after confirming your payment by PayPal.
For domestic delivery within Japan, it is free when the total goes over 11,000yen.
Contact address is info(at)mabysoshite.com (please change the (at) to @).
How to visit us in Tokyo?
The shop is only 1min walk from Gaienmae station （外苑前駅）Exit 1b on Ginza line Tokyo Metro. When you walk up the stairs of the exit 1b, you just need to walk straight for about 100m and our store is on the right side of the street on the ground floor.
Gaienmae station is only 2 stops away from Shibuya on Tokyo Metro Ginza line.
If you are a visitor, please bring your passport, so you can enjoy tax free shopping!
You can also find a map on our HP!
MA by So Shi Te
2-22-15 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku,
Tokyo Japan 107–0062
If you are Japanese or those who can ready Japanese, please check our online store for the details.