A to Wa of Japan: Week 40

It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with  よ (yo) and we looked at Yoyogi Koen (代々木公園). This week we are looking at things beginning with ら (ra). A big thank you to those who joined in with suggestions this week:

UK Seikatsu suggested ramen (ラーメン / a noodle soup dish using thin Chinese-style wheat noodles), and Rashomon (羅生門 / a film directed by Akira Kurosawa); lovelycomplex22 also suggested ramen; furo-chan suggested Rakuten (楽天株式会社 / an electronic commerce and Internet company), ranKing/ranQueen (ランキンランキン|ランキング / a small chain of chops in Japan), ramen, rakkyou (ラッキョウ / Japanese scallion), and rasera (らせら / the Nebuta Festival chant); Zooming Japan suggested Rakuten, and rakugo (落語 / traditional storyteller); Japan Australia suggested ramen, rayu (ラー油 / chili oil used in Japanese cooking), ramune (ラムネ / traditional Japanese soft-drink), and rakugo; and Paul suggested Ran (乱 / another Kurosawa film), and ranma (らんま / beautiful wooden carvings fitted above shoji doors).

Some interesting ideas there! In the end (despite all the votes for ‘ramen’), I decided to write about…

Ranma (欄間 / らんま)


(Image source)

‘Ranma’ is a new word for me, so a big thank you goes to Paul for suggesting it and widening my knowledge of Japan! Very little seems to be written in English about ranma, but what I’ve learnt so far is that the word refers to the beautiful wooden carvings one often finds above shoji (障子) screen doors in traditional Japanese buildings.


(Image source)

The most comprehensive article I’ve found online about ranma is this JCOLLECTOR blog post, which states:

For over a thousand years, ranma or transom panels were used in Japan to fill the space between the top of sliding doors or partition screens and the ceiling. Introduced during the Heian Period (9th to the 12th centuries), ranma allowed light and air to pass between interior rooms when the sliding doors (shoji) or fusuma doors (襖) were closed. Ranma were used in all types of Japanese buildings.

Tajiri Historic House in Tajiri, Osaka Prefecture

Tajiri Historic House in Tajiri, Osaka Prefecture

(Image source)

Some ranma are quite practical, but others are beautiful and very intricately carved. From a brief look online (on sites such as eBay) it looks like some people actually collect these works of art, but personally I would rather see them in their original settings. Next time I’m in Japan I will definitely be looking up a little more when I’m in traditional Japanese buildings.

Nishi Honganji, Kyoto

Nishi Honganji, Kyoto


Next week we’ll start with り (ri), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with り. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese words.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!  (*^_^)v

11 thoughts on “A to Wa of Japan: Week 40

  1. Nice post – Japan sure does have some amazing carvings and carpentry.

    For り can I suggest:

    Rikishi (Sumo wrestlers)
    Rikidozan (pro-wrestler who became a national hero in the 1950/60s)
    Rip Slyme (long running rap group)


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