Rain chains are small embelishments in Japanese style architecture

The “supporting characters” that are worth noting when viewing Japanese style architecture

Rain chains serve as gutters. They are forms of vertical gutters that lead rainwater that gathers in roof gutters to the ground on rainy days. Vertical gutters are normally pipes, but it is said that these forms of gutters were formed along with the architecture for tea ceremony houses called “Sukiyazukuri” over four hundred years ago.

The tea masters during these times were satisfied with fittings as long as they functioned properly, but wanted a more beautiful and rich environment by adding a little variety. In imbibing the spirit of the tea ceremony, rain chains have always been made in a rustic fashion without lavish decorations to let nature be enjoyed from up close.

A chain of cup-shaped
A chain of cup-shaped links

The early rain chains are said to have been palm ropes that were hung from roofs. A real one can be seen next to the entrance of the Residence of Hachiroemon Mitsui at the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Koganei City, Tokyo.

An early type of rain chain
An early type of rain chain using a hemp-parm rope suspended from the roof (Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum)

Those made of copper started to appear later on with advances in metalworking technology. Today, there are those made of stainless-steel. There is a growing number of different types such as those where chains are linked together as well as chains of continuous cup-shaped links, and those used in structures made with techniques other than traditional architecture. Rain chains are also gaining popularity in the West and other Asian countries where they are used in architecture and gardening to create Japanese atmosphere and enjoying the streaming of rainwater.

Please be sure to check out rain chains when viewing Japanese-style structures.

In recent years, there has been a growing number of people in countries overseas who would like to include rain chains in their own homes and find new ways of using them for different purposes such as interior decorations. In Japan, rain chains can be purchased at home improvement retailers but there are cases where they must be ordered as they are not always in stock. If you plan on purchasing one, please consult with an information center when coming to Japan to see where they are available. There are also websites such as the one below where they can be purchased and delivered from overseas.