What is a curtain-like object hung at the entrance of a shop or a restaurant?
It’s called Noren. Noren is a short and slit curtain on which the name or family crest of the shop or restaurant is often printed so it acts as a signboard of the shop. When Noren is hung at the entrance, it means that the shop is open. When it’s tucked inside the door, the shop is closed.
(Noren is hung at the entrance of Sushi Bar)
Noren is unique to Japan. It dates back to the Heiran Period (9th C ~ 12th C) for Noren being depicted on picture scrolls created in the era. Noren was originally used as a means to prevent strong sunlight or winds from coming into the shops but over centuries it became a symbol of the shop. Actually, there are several expressions in Japanese to show how people have been putting values on Noren in running their business.
One example is Noren-ni-kizu. Its direct translation is that Noren has got injured but actually it means that the reputation of the shop has been damaged or tarnished for some reasons. To avoid such damage, people of the shop are to run honest and sincere business.
Another example is Noren-wake. Wa-ke or Wa-ke-ru in Japanese means “divide” and the expression of Noren-wake is used when the master of the shop allows his or her apprentice or employee to open a branch shop with the same name of the original shop, thus Noren-wake guarantees that the same quality as the original shop is to be maintained at the branch shop.
(Nawa-noren is hung at Iwakata)
Noren is made mainly of cloth in silk or cotton. But there is another type of NOREN which is made of narrow ropes. It’s called Nawa-noren (“Nawa” means a rope which is often made of rice straw or hemp). If you were invited by a Japanese friend of yours with an expression “Let’s go to Nawa-noren”, it actually means “Let’s go to an Izakaya, a Japanese-style tavern” because Nawa-noren is a Noren hung at the entrance of Izakaya as its symbol. Enjoy your time with your friends at Izakaya!
By Jin Shibata