Do you know much about bamboo rakes that have been used as agricultural implements in Japan since the early days? Sometimes you can see the scenes of people using these bamboo rakes to rake up grains or fallen leaves in daily life. These rakes are tools that are shaped like a hand with a handle and usually made of bamboo. These are called ‘Kumade’ which means bear claws or a hand of a bear. Rakes were first sold in the courtyard of shrines on festival days. The rakes of shrines that worship gods of business prosperity were especially popular. Many people began to say “we can make money with rakes”. After that, in the Edo-era (1600-1867), rakes began to be decorated with lucky items such as masks of lucky gods, replicas of gold coins, seven gods (Shichi-Fuku-Jin) and miniature treasure ships (Takarabune). These decorated rakes began to be known as good luck charms.
On the days of the rooster in November (Japanese calendar), the Rooster Market (Tori-no Ichi Festival) is open at shrines all over Japan, and rakes are sold at these places every year. Rooster, ‘tori’ has a lucky sound in Japanese. It means raking in or gathering in good fortune. The biggest festival is held at the Ohtori Shrine in Asakusa, Tokyo, where more than 200 stalls are set up lining innumerable rakes of different shapes and sizes made by kumade- craftsmen throughout Japan. Tens of thousands of visitors come to these festivals and many seek for rakes to be able to see the New Year in. Restaurant owners often display rakes inside their restaurant to pray for greater prosperity in the Kanto area.