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Inaka Dictionary: 熊手 (くまで) a rake

June 18, 2010

Stop laughing--what kind of rakes did you think cows would have?

The rake, or 熊手(くまで)”kumade” in Japanese, is a common implement in the countryside, where it’s not uncommon to wake up to the sound of someone raking their garden, walkway or even just the bare ground. The Japanese believe in ardent raking! This could stem from the name “kumade” which means “bear claw.” Nothing is more untidy to the Japanese than fallen leaves, and each and every one of them is raked up off the ground and disposed of so as not to litter a dirt pathway. Raking is also practiced in rigorous form at temples. Hardly a day goes by in the countryside when you don’t pass someone raking something somewhere. Raking is closely related to outdoor sweeping (with a broom), but we’ll save that for a different entry as we couldn’t possibly cover both of them in their entirety in one blog post!

There are a variety of kumade available. The little one pictured above is to get into those pesky little corners and crevices where fallen leaves often hide. The rake to the right is less popular, and is only used for heavy- duty work. The two rakes on the left have crooked handles because this traditional type of wooden rake, still widely used in the countryside, is made with a bamboo handle. They usually don’t have broken teeth in them either…rather unsightly!

Rakes have another role in Japanese culture, as in to “rake in fortunes” which you can read about here on Nihon Sun. Or, if it’s the “ear rake” you’re looking for (no joke!), here’s an article from The Japan Times that explains that.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Walter Buffalo permalink
    June 18, 2010 11:15 am

    I immediately thought of the smaller kumade that are used to rake up shells from stony beaches.

    Some people call them NinjaKumade.

    That reminded me of ninja claws, but apparently they are called tsume (爪) not “te”. (手) The word kumade seems to be reserved for longer reaching claws:

    Come to think of it, in Monkey Magic, didn’t Pigsy (Cho Hakkai) have a rake?

  2. humorusguidetojapan permalink*
    June 18, 2010 11:22 am

    Interesting that you bring up tsume, which means claws. Strictly speaking, kumade would be translated at “bear hand.” Who knows, maybe there are bears out there with hands!

    Thanks for the links!

  3. June 18, 2010 3:12 pm

    Get a small kumade with gourgeous decorations for the New Year !
    To rake in more fortune for next year.
    (hope this photo link works)

    There are special markets in December to get your very own one,
    kumade ichi 熊手市 (where they also sell the Daruma dolls for good luck).

    But now I got to run, rake my garden a bit more … never mind the rain … got to keep things clean around here in INAKA !


    • humorusguidetojapan permalink*
      June 18, 2010 3:27 pm

      Thanks Gabi! We had searched your blog for a photo (which I thought I had seen before) or even a haiku about rakes, but couldn’t find anything. Then again, it is very difficult for us cows to use these keyboards made for humans, so our clumsiness could have been responsible. Do enlighten us if you have anything relevant. But of course, finish your raking first!

  4. June 18, 2010 3:21 pm

    Found one more kumade, of course, if you want to win an election …
    a big kumade with Daruma on it to make sure you have double luck to win.

    With the upcoming elections, it might be another boom time for the bear hands and bear hugs!


    • humorusguidetojapan permalink*
      June 18, 2010 3:32 pm

      Oh there it is! Very nice. Yes, scroll down past all the Darumas and you get a rake (with a daruma!). Now I’ve seen everything. Thanks!

  5. June 18, 2010 4:22 pm

    Hi there again, been doing some homework, since the strong rain was going to wash me down the mountain …

    here is a famous kumade market for the “bear hands”, and you can even write haiku about it, since it is on the first day of the rooster in November at Asakusa . . .
    Still a bit early to get ready for raking in good luck for the new year, but well, here we go :


    • humorusguidetojapan permalink*
      June 18, 2010 4:35 pm

      Very interesting! And a nice addition for those who would like to read more after reading about the kumade ichi in the Nihon Sun article we linked to. Thank you. Your blog is a wonderful resource for Japanese culture!

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