Main types of fans|Classification by material, use, place of origin, size, and correct usage

Folding fans are used in a wide range of situations, from daily life to lessons and celebrations. There are many types of fans. In recent years, many people give fans as gifts or souvenirs in addition to using them themselves, so it is important to check how to choose the right one. In this article, we will explain the different types of materials, uses, production areas, sizes, and patterns (designs) that you should keep in mind when purchasing a fan. If you are not sure what type of fan to choose, please read this article for reference.

Main types of fans by material

There are differences in appearance and feel depending on the materials used for each part of the fan. In order to choose a fan that you are particular about, we will tell you about the different types of fans by material.

Paper folding fan (Kamisensu)

Kamisensu are fans made of paper, with the fan bone inserted into three sheets of laminated base paper. There are many variations for this common type of fan. It is easy to choose your favorite pattern, design, and size. Products using Japanese paper for the fan surface are also available.

Dough fan (Kiji-sensu)

A fabric fan, also called a "cloth fan," is a fan with a translucent surface made of fabric. There are various types of fabrics used for the fan surface, such as silk and polyester. Unlike paper fans, these are made by applying fabric to only one side of the fan bone, leaving the fan bone exposed on the other side. [1]

Sandalwood fan

A fan made from sandalwood, an aromatic wood. Sandalwood, also called sandalwood, is a plant native to India, and the wood itself emits a fragrance. It is also famous as a material for incense sticks and has a sweet and gentle smell. Sandalwood fans are not only attractive for their fragrance, but also for the openwork carving on the wood fan. [2]

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Hinoki fan (Japanese cypress fan)

A hinoki fan is a fan made of thin cypress boards bound together with silk thread and fastened with a kaname (keystone). It was born in the Heian period (794-1185) when paper was precious, and has a history of being used at court. Many modern hinoki fans are also high-end products with gorgeous maki-e decorations on the fan surface and string ornaments. These fans are also popular as indoor decorations for gifts. [3]

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Main types of fans

You may use more than one fan depending on the season or occasion. Here are the main types of fans by purpose.

Summer fans (Natsu Sensu)

Paper or cloth fans used in summer are called summer fans. Summer fans are characterized by the fact that they are used to cool off with a fan. It can be said that what is generally called a fan often refers to a summer fan. Paper fans are called summer fans (Natsu-ogi), while hinoki fans made of wood are sometimes called winter fans (Fuyu-ogi).

Decorative folding fan

A decorative folding fan is a fan used as an indoor decoration in homes and stores. They are displayed standing up with the fan open. It is not used with a fan like a summer fan. The fan surface of a decorative fan is often decorated with seasonal designs or lucky charms and is often used for gift-giving occasions. [4]

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Maisensu (folding fan)

Maisensu is a fan used in Japanese dancing. It is also called "Mai ogi" (dancing fan). They are often decorated with gorgeous gold and silver designs to make them look gorgeous on stage, and both sides are decorated with the same patterns. Some maifan have a sturdier structure than ordinary fans, with thicker bones, etc. [5]

Shimai-sen (shimai-sen, shimai-o-gi)

A shimai fan is a fan used in the traditional Japanese performing arts of Noh and Kyogen. The size, color, and pattern of the shimai fan varies depending on the role played on stage and the style of the performance. [6]

Shugi sen (congratulatory fan)

Shugi-sen is a fan used in the ceremonial dress of kimono. Because of its shape, a fan is considered a good-luck charm, and is used as a small accessory at prestigious celebrations such as weddings. A congratulatory fan generally has a black lacquered parent bone and a gold or silver fan face. [7]

Chasensu (tea fan, chaoogi)

Chasensu are fans used at tea ceremonies. It is used as a prop to convey courtesy, including greetings at tea ceremonies, and has an important meaning. The tea fan is smaller in size than a typical summer fan and is used with the fan closed at tea ceremonies. [8]

Main types of folding fans

There are many famous production areas for folding fans in Japan. Here, we introduce the types of folding fans by representative production areas.

Edo folding fan (Tokyo)

Edo fans in Tokyo refer to fans that were once sold in Edo (present-day Tokyo). The designs tend to be simple and bold, with small patterns and stripes, as well as animal designs and characters. To match these bold patterns, the number of bones is as few as 15, and the main bone is made thicker.

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Kyoto folding fan

Kyo Sensu refers to folding fans made mainly in the historic city of Kyoto. Only workshops and dealers that are members of the Kyoto Senko Dansen Cooperative Association can use the name Kyo Sensu. A variety of high-end fans, including the aforementioned dancing fans and congratulatory fans, are produced by the handiwork of craftsmen. [9]

Nagoya Senshi (Aichi)

Nagoya fans are fans made in the production area that developed around Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. Nagoya is known as one of the two major production centers of fans along with Kyoto. Of these, Nagoya is characterized by the production of mainly men's practical folding fans. [10]

Omi Folding Fan (Shiga)

Omi fans are fans made in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, and finished with Japanese paper applied in the local area to the Takashima fan bone. Takashima fan bones are made from high-quality bamboo, and the majority of the process is done by hand by craftsmen. These fan bones are also shipped to Kyoto and used in Kyoto fans. [11]

[By size] Main types of folding fans

There are different types of fan sizes, each depending on the fan. The length of a fan is expressed in the traditional unit "sun". One "sun" is about 3 cm, so when the closed length of a fan is about 21 cm, it is expressed as "7 sun. In addition, "ma" indicates the number of bones of a fan. For example, an Edo fan with 15 bones is 7.5 sun 15 ken (about 22 cm).

Shikebiki fans also come in different sizes: 7.5 sun 35 ken (approx. 22 cm) and 6.5 sun 35 ken (approx. 19.5 cm). Kan-nishiki Shibu fans are 8.5 sun (approx. 25.5 cm), Ojiya Shikibiki fans are 7.5 sun (approx. 22 cm) and 6.5 sun (approx. 20 cm), silk fans are 7 sun (approx. 21 cm), and decorative fans are 9.5 sun (approx. 28 cm), etc. Please refer to these when selecting a fan. However, since each fan is handmade by a craftsman, the size differs slightly.

Main types of fans by pattern (design)

The fan surface of a folding fan is decorated with various designs. Among the traditional patterns, there are also designs with congratulatory meanings. Why not choose a fan based on the meaning of the pattern while enjoying the stylish design?


Hyotan is a plant characterized by its narrow fruits and vines, and is known as one of the auspicious motifs for congratulations. Since it bears many fruits, it has long been used as a motif of good luck. It is also said that the unique shape of the necked fruit absorbs evil spirits and keeps them at bay. Because of these characteristics, the gourd pattern is associated with such meanings as "prosperity of descendants," "prosperity in business," "many blessings," and "good health. [13]

Ayu fish

Ayu (sweetfish) is a freshwater fish found in Japan and is a familiar type of fish often enjoyed by river fishermen. In spring, young ayu fry migrate upstream, and are called "climbing ayu. Since ayu fry climb up the river against the violent current of the water, the design of ayu fish is associated with the meaning of "success in life" and is considered a pattern of good luck. This pattern is also used in gift-giving occasions such as celebrations for employment and promotions, to wish for success in one's work. [14]


The horse, a powerful runner, has long been closely associated with human life. Many objects, including men's kimonos and swords, are decorated with horse patterns. One of the most celebratory patterns is the one depicting nine horses running. The character for "horse nine running" (= "go well") is used as an auspicious pattern to bring luck in such matters as victory. The pattern of a horse facing left is also considered an auspicious pattern because the word "horse" is read upside down (=mau), which is a pun on the word "dance" (=mai), which is danced in celebration. [15]


Bamboo is an evergreen plant that is abundant in Japan. It often appears in Japanese folktales, including "Taketori Monogatari" (The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter). It has long been considered a good-luck charm due to its year-round green color and the legend that the legendary Chinese bird, the phoenix, eats its fruit. Such bamboo patterns are associated with meanings such as "longevity" and "immortality. It is also used in combination with other plants as a pattern of congratulations, as in the case of "pine, bamboo, and plum. [16]


A scale pattern refers to a pattern consisting of multiple triangles arranged in a row. This is a geometric pattern that represents the scales on the body of a fish or snake. Scale patterns have long been believed to have the power to ward off evil. It has been used since ancient times, and in the Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1333-1568) periods, it was also used as a family crest of warriors and on jinbaori (a coat of arms). There are many variations in the shape and size of the triangles, and many different designs of scale patterns exist. [17]


The dragonfly is an insect known as the seasonal word for autumn, and is often used as a standard pattern in yukata. They are characterized by their large, long wings and straight forward flight. Such a dragonfly's appearance was favored by warriors because of its connotation of courage and daring and never retreating, and it came to be called a "winning insect" as a good-luck charm that brings victory. In addition, as an autumn insect that produces crops, the dragonfly's pattern also has the meaning of praying for a bountiful harvest. [18]

Seikaiha (blue ocean waves)

Seigaiha (blue ocean waves) is a geometric pattern depicting the rippling sea. It consists of multiple overlapping fan shapes arranged in a repeating sequence. This pattern has been handed down around the world since ancient times, and is believed to have been introduced to Japan during the Asuka period (710-794). The name "seigaiha" (blue ocean waves) comes from the costume used in the Gagaku (ancient Japanese court music) performance "Seigaiha" (blue ocean waves). The pattern, which represents the endless calm and wide ocean, is meant to pray for eternal peace and happiness in the future. [19]

Proper use and care of folding fans

Finally, we will show you the correct way to use a fan for each gender. We also tell you how to take care of your folding fan. Please refer to these tips to bring out the charm of your fan and make it last as long as possible.

How to Hold a Fan

When holding a fan, grip it by the keystone and place your thumb on the thickest parent bone. The key is to hold it with the back of the hand facing out and pinch it between the four fingers except the thumb. If you hold it in the correct way, you can make the most of the charm of the fan and make your hand look graceful. Not only that, it also reduces the strain on the fan and prolongs the life of your precious fan. For these practical reasons, we recommend that you use your fan in the correct way.

How to open and close a folding fan

How to open a folding fan [20]

To open a fan, first hold it lightly with both hands, with the outer bone facing upward. Then, with your right hand on top of the fan, support it with your left hand from below. Next, after placing your right hand on the main point of the fan, place your left thumb around the middle of the fan and push it up to the right side to spread it out. Once the fan is slightly opened in this way, spread it out slowly with both hands. It is important to open the fan carefully to make it last longer. Also, when fanning with a folding fan, support the main bone of the fan and fan it. If you fan it with your fingers on the middle bone, it may break.


How to close a fan [21].

When closing a fan, hold the open fan's main bone lightly with both hands and carefully fold it up while pulling the middle bone one by one. Do not close it with one hand or close it vigorously all at once, but close it slowly as you do when opening it. Use both hands to handle it carefully.

How to care for your fan

After closing a folding fan, secure the top part with shimegami or rubber to prevent it from losing its shape. Also, when carrying the fan, it is safer to put it in a fan bag. Note that the surface of the fan is particularly delicate and may be damaged if it is placed in the bag as it is. All types of fans tend to be sensitive to water, so if you do get a fan wet, wipe it dry immediately and dry it thoroughly.

In addition, the key parts of a fan tend to wear out during use. If it should break, we recommend that you consider repairing or refurbishing the keystone. Please take care of your fan in daily use to prolong the life of your fan.


Points to keep in mind when using a fan

Be careful not to let the wind hit people around you [22].

When using a fan in places where there are other people nearby, such as inside a train or bus car, in an elevator, or in a theater seat, do not forget to be considerate of those around you. In public places, some people may not be comfortable with the wind blowing from a fan or the sound of a fan being fanned nearby. Be aware of the appropriate occasions for using a fan, as well as the proper manners and etiquette for using an elegant fan.


Avoid flapping it around too quickly [23].

When fanning yourself with a fan, be aware of slow and deliberate movements, which will make your gestures look more beautiful. On the other hand, avoid flapping the fan too loudly. Not only do small, quick movements give the impression of being too busy, but many people are also bothered when they see it in their line of vision. In public places, be careful even about how you fan yourself with a fan, as a strong fan can easily blow the wind to those nearby.

When enjoying fragrance, be careful not to put too much on and be mindful of TPO [24].

Some fans are made from fragrant woods such as sandalwood, which can be enjoyed. Another option is to put your own perfume on the fan and enjoy the fragrance each time you fan it. However, there is a risk that the fragrance may be disturbing when you are in a public place or enjoying a meal. Thus, when enjoying fragrance with a fan, be careful not to apply too much fragrance and use the fan in consideration of TPO.

∙ Points to keep in mind at weddings [25].

A fan that is inserted into the left breast of the obi of a black or colored tomesode kimono for celebratory occasions such as weddings is called a suehiro. Suehiro" means spreading from the top to the bottom (the end), and is shaped like the numeral "8. The word "suehiro" means "spreading out," and has long been associated with development and prosperity, making it a very auspicious item.

However, there are some manners that must be observed when using suehiro. It is taboo to open a fan and fan out. The original purpose of the suehiro is ceremonial, to create a boundary between you and your partner. In other words, to create a boundary between the other person and oneself implies "to be courteous to the other person. Therefore, to express gratitude to the other person, please be careful not to use it in a way that goes against the original use of suehiro, as it is a breach of etiquette.

Check the types before purchasing and choose an appropriate fan.

So far, we have introduced the types of folding fans by material, purpose, production area, size, and pattern (design). Folding fans are popular not only for your own use but also for gift-giving occasions such as celebrations. Please select an appropriate fan according to the purpose of purchase from among the many types. In addition, using a fan correctly not only makes your gestures look beautiful, but also prolongs the life of your precious fan. Depending on the occasion in which you use the fan, it is also important to pay attention to etiquette. Please refer to the information we have given you and make use of the fan widely in your daily life.