You may have seen Japanese Noren Curtains at the front of shops, as curtains for doorways, sento bathes and nosen hot sprints, Izakayas in Japan or in our Japanese Home Decor roundup. Japanese door curtains are great way of separating out a space while having it remain accessible.
Let’s cut to the chase by showing you what our three favourite Japanese noren curtains available online are:
- One of the most characteristic Noren in bathhouses throughout Japan
- Featuring the hiragana character for “Yu”, hot water.
- Good quality, thick cotton
- 59″ (150cm) length and dark, non-see through color provide privacy
- Made in Japan
Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s get into the nitty gritty, because really Noren are a matter of horses for courses, or curtains for circumstances.
How to choose a Noren
How to choose a noren curtain
Alex Kerr has written about the sense of the “liminal” in Japan in his masterful essential-reading-for-any-Japanofile book Another Kyoto, where you often have symbolic lines placed to seperate out a space. You see these in Japanese gardens with borders of rocks, in housing design with wooden beams or the brocade on a tatami mat, and, perhaps most representatively, in the gates that exist without a wall at the entrance of temples. These dividers are there to give you the sense that you are moving to a new area, physically, psychologically, spiritually. Japanese door curtains are a classic example of this.
1. Decide the space you want to “separate out” using a noren as a symbolic border.
Most common areas that people like to place noren curtains:
- Front entrance
- Bathroom entrance
- Kitchen Entrance
- Middle of room as a divider
- Back entrance
2. Decide how much space you want to block out. Eg. What size Noren curtain do you need?
Up to 90 cm (35 inches)
These are good for kitchens either at home or in a restaurant. People can see what is going on but there is a level of privacy with the face being out of view. You can carry things, such as plates, easily beneath them without the curtains getting in the way. Small children can pass beneath them without touching them at all, meaning they are less likely to get dirty or pulled on. They generally leave you without about 130cm of room between the floor and the bottom of the noren.
- A “kitchen” or “restaurant” style short Noren
- Text advertises Japanese dishes Okonomiyaki, Udon and Yakisoba noodles.
- Multiple slits for easy coming and going
- Length : 145cm 57.1 inches, Height: 85cm 33.5 inches
130cm (51 inches)
These will generally hide a person down to around their knees or waist, meaning you will still be able to see their feet and get a sense of who is behind them without actually seeing the whole person. They are still relatively easy to fold or move through but they will start to block out a significant amount of light.
Use cases include a back door where you want to block out some light but still keep things breezy.
200cm (78 inches)
A noren curtain this length will stretch close to the floor and provide the most privacy. It will also provide the most insulation effect if you are wanting to hold in some warmth in a space that you don’t want to block off completely with a door.
Use cases include a doorway between a kitchen and a living room that you move through regularly but want to keep secret, or bedroom where you would like to keep the door open most of the time and still have privacy.
3. How much light do you want to block out: Do you want a see-through or opaque Noren curtain?
Once you know the length of the noren you want to use, you can think about how opaque you want it to be. If you want to use a noren to partition a room, then a noren that is relatively see-through can be a good option. I relatively see through noren can also be good for covering off a wardrobe or a pantry. If you want to cover off, say, an entrance to a shower, you may want to go with something less revealing.
4. What material do you like (and what is easiest to wash & look after)?
Do you want something heavy to conserve heat, or something light and airy? Do you want something that is nice to touch, or easy to clean and look after?
The three main materials you will find are:
Linen & hemp will give you a soothing “cool” feel to your room. Cotton will give a softer feel.
Polyester is probably the easiest to look after because it is so easy to roll up and clean. Although it may feel a bit cheaper if you look at it up close, and may not last as long as some of the other materials, for most intents and purposes it will serve the purposes. It can be good option for use around a bathroom where you may need to clean the noren regularly.
5. What pattern do you like? Do you want a “statement” piece or something more subdued?
The last criteria is more a question of personal aesthetic preferences. There is a wide range of designs for noren ranging from the striking and loud to the subtle and understated. Though this is down to taste, it is best to think about the larger aesthetic of the room or rooms you are trying to decorate. Is the surrounding full of colour or using more muted tones. Do you want to make a “feature” of the noren by contrasting or to blend in with what is already there.
Although there are various “traditional Japanese” looking noren, there are also various options that inspired by modern design and designs from other cultures (notably scandanavian).
Noren with characters
You can also use a Noren to express your fandom. If you need to get some more totoro in your life.
Other Japanese home decor items
A translation into English of the opening theme song from Midnight Diner Tokyo Stories (Shinya Shokudo) soundtrack, Omoide, by Tsunekichi Suzuki. I give a background on the songwriter, translate the lyrics, present the song in Japanese and English, and give a commentary on the translation.
But first thing’s first…
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Hi, I’m Peter. I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology. I have succesfully completed the highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1). I have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.