福良すずめ (plump sparrows)

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Click to enlarge.

Title:

福良すずめ (fukura suzume)
“plump sparrows”

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This top depicts sparrows in winter. As Hiroi-sensei describes, when the weather gets cold, the sparrows fluff up their feathers to stay warm, giving them a plump appearance. The word plump (fukura) is written with two characters, 福 (fuku – luck) and 良 (ra – good), and so the plump sparrow is said to be good luck. When this top is spun, it makes a cheeping sound like a little sparrow.

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Hiroi Michiaki: This is–

Mrs. Hiroi: A sparrow.

Hiroi: It’s called a plump (fukura) sparrow.

Mrs. Hiroi: It’s said to have luck (fuku).

Hiroi: In the winter, often sparrows will fluff out because it’s cold. And that’s called a “plump sparrow,” and in kanji it’s written with 福 (fuku – luck) and 良 (ra – good), so it’s fukura. Umm and of course it’s said to be good luck. And this, when you spin it like this, somehow a sound like it’s singing comes out. A little noise. It goes chi-chi-chi-chi, chi-chi-chi-chi. How the noise comes out even I, who made it, don’t know. In any case, it makes a noise. It’s a faint little voice. And sparrows, they’re always in bamboo for some reason. Because it’s the sparrows’ home. The sparrows at my home nest in the roof tiles though.

Mrs. Hiroi: In the roof tiles.

Hiroi:  Well, they don’t offer us any baskets. If they did, I’d only get a small one, though. Because the big ones are scary. Hahaha.*

*Here, Hiroi-sensei is making a reference to the story of the “The Old Woman Who Cut the Sparrow’s Tongue.”

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