"Gara gara" is the Japanese onomatopoeia word describing the sound of rattles. Hence these special bells adopted the name Hikosan Gara-Gara.
Long live the Bells
The first record of Hikosan clay bell was from 1300 years ago, when during a drought, the emperor offered a pair of clay bells to the Hikosan Shrine to pray for relief for the area. As the region eventually received the blessing of rain, the clay bells were enshrined and commemorated.
500 years later, when the war broke out and caused fire at the Shrine, the bells were buried and could not be recovered. The then Feudal Lord of Hizen commissioned the re-creation of the bells. This marks the beginning of Hikosan Gara Gara as a local folk craft. It is now considered as the oldest-known clay bells of Japan.
For 800 years, the agricultural community of Soeda has solely kept this heritage going. Now, the Hikosan Gara Gara is not only an amulet available at the Shrine for visitors to bring home with, but also an important talisman which the local farmers continue to use as a good-luck charm to ward off evil and pests.
For one man, these "smiley" bells meant so much to him that he could not stop making them.
The Shinozaki family has been making the clay bells for 4 generations. Mr. Yoshitake Shinozaki first started making Hikosan Gara Gara at age 12 while watching his father making them. It was still a time of horse-carriages, Yoshitake would hike 12 km up to the Hikosan Shrine and gave them to the neighbors and shops which he received treats and candies in return.
Farming-life is always busy, but Mr. Shinozaki keeps up with his bell-making. He also dedicated much of his time in teaching school groups and visitors about the history and importance to preserve the Hikosan Gara Gara for the region.
The Craft Guardian, The Maker
Hikosan Gara Gara
The Making of Hikosan Gara Gara
"They may look so simple, but it is not that easy to make."
It looks easy only because Mr. Shinozaki's trained hands have been making these bells for over 70 years. Any potter can tell you the experience and labor involved in managing a wood-firing kiln. Adding fire-wood at the right time and maintaining accurate and consistent temperature for long durarion is key.
Mr. Shinozaki said if the firing time and temperature is not controlled perfectly, the sound of the bells would come out like metal clanging, not pleasant to the ears. And the whole batch of bells will go to waste.
A lucky charm, a decoration, or the security alarm of analog times.
According to local custom, the SMALL bells would be placed at the main entrance and the single LARGE bell at the back entrance of the house. For those with only 1 entrance, place the SMALL bells at the main door and the BIG one at the main window or balcony doors.
WHY? The large gara-gara has a louder chime, and it is natural to have louder "alarm" when thieves usually attempt to sneak in from the back door. The pair of bells are still being used in regional farm villages in Japan as amulets, analog-style.
For a year with good energy, guard your home with
Hikosan Gara Gara
We have small inventory, they are made only in Fall/Winter, so while supply lasts.