The History of Rain Chains

March 10, 2022 5:44 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Rain chains have been becoming an increasingly popular fixture in Western landscape architecture in the last couple of decades, but their history on a global scale stretches back much, much farther.

For those who are still asking, “What are rain chains?” or for those who have not been familiar with the pleasing aesthetics they can provide to a garden space, we’re offering a brief history of rain chains and their cultural origins.

Origins of rain chains

Kusari-toi, also known as the rain chain, has its origins in Japanese architecture. The chains first began to be implemented when constructing Sukiya-style buildings, also referred to as tea houses, for performing tea ceremonies. This first started during the Azuchi-Momoyama period, which stretched from 1558 to 1600 CE.

In that time, the tea masters of Japan preferred rustic and mundane aesthetics rather than over-the-top, formal appearances. This made the selection of rain chains a natural decision for landscape architecture of that period.

Research into rain chains of that time shows fibers from the outer layer of some regional hemp palm plans were used to be woven into rope that would be hung from wood or bamboo, allowing rainwater to run down the rope toward the ground. While these original features did not have the links associated with rain chains, they functioned in very much the same way and had a very natural appearance to them.

Over time, these features evolved to include metal technology. Materials such as copper began to be used, which added additional unique aesthetic appeal; however, copper oxidizes over time, so it was no surprise that modern rain chains began to feature aluminum or stainless steel construction to avoid rust and oxidation.

What we typically think of when we think about the modern rain chain first started to make its way into residential homes about 50 years ago, with expansion into Western-style homes in the following years. There has been a surge in interest in recent years among Americans and Western Europeans in using rain chains to create appealing garden spaces. There has also been a movement in commercial buildings to implement rain chains to add visual interest and to provide an alternative to standard downspouts.

Rain chains today

Rain chains can be implemented on any residential or commercial building. When it rains, water flows naturally with the chain and with changes in the weather to create a unique appearance and ambiance every single time. Plants can be incorporated into chain designs to create a sort of green curtain.

Rain chains can be installed in place of drain pipes where it might be difficult to implement them due to the structural design or where it might be more attractive to have drains instead of pipes or gutters for aesthetic purposes. On particularly narrow or long eaves where it’s difficult to install gutters, rain chains can help drain water directly down from the eaves.

For more information about the history of rain chains, reach out to the team at Gutter Master today.

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