Kumade (熊手)

A kumade (rake) is a type of Japanese farm tool used in farming or for raking gardens that consists of rough comb-like teeth that are vertically attached to a handle. It is also known as a reki, shuha and maguwa.

Kumade as a farm tool

Kumade is used in various ways such as collecting dead leaves or dried plants, softening or flattening soils and so on.

The tines of modern kumade are made from iron steel, plastic and so on, but in previous times some of them were from wood or cast iron. The handle is mostly made from bamboo or metal pipe. Sometimes in the traditional kumade like the one made from bamboo, the tine parts are long and made in the form of a folding fan.

For large kumade that are classified as being agricultural machinery, the bar on which the curved steel teeth are mounted is equipped with wheels, enabling it to be pulled by a tractor.

This type of machine form has been passed down from the age of farm horses before the development of farm machines.

Kumade as an auspicious object

In Japan, kumade is sometimes put up as an auspicious object for prosperous business in the sense of 'kakiatsumeru' (collecting) luck or economic fortune. Mostly it is sold in the Tori no ichi (cock market) at the shrines on Tori no hi (Days of the Cock) in November every year.

It is said that buying the larger kumade than that of the previous year leads to prosperous business and so on every year.

Kumade as a weapon

Kumade which equipped iron steel nails with the handle, imitating a hand of bear, was used as a weapon from the last days of Heian period. It was used for grappling enemies and so on.

A kumade was used to hook the top of TAIRA no Yorimori's kabuto (helmet), and another was used to prevent TAIRA no Tokuko from drowning himself. Benkei carried seven gears on his back and allegedly one of them was a kumade.

[Original Japanese]