Relationship between Uchiwa fan and a holding fan.

In the ancient Takamatsuzuka burial mound, a noble lady holds up a large fan-like object made of round wood and sewn with lacquer on a stick about 80 cm long. The fan was sliced and folded into a fan, which was the beginning of the fan.

 The beginning of a fan

The beginning of a fan
China (song) 12th century


The hinoki-fan is also carried by the hina dolls. However, the hinoki fan itself was also heavy, so it was made of paper and bamboo to make it easy to carry. It can be seen in Heian-emaki. The fans that are carried by court nobles and shoguns in TV historical dramas are also made of hinoki fans. It was also called "kawahori" (bat) because of its resemblance to the wings of a bat.

The compact size has continued to be developed and is still in use today.

 Hina dolls Hina dolls
Hina dolls 1800


It was during the late Edo period (1603-1868) that fans became popular among the general public as summer possessions. Japanese fans began to go abroad around the 15th century. They went to China, where they were replaced by sandalwood fans, and to Europe, where they were replaced by silk fans. Although fans were for the aristocracy, it is said that there were many fan makers in Kyoto, Nanjing, Paris, and Madrid.

Fans, on the other hand, were mainly used by warlords to command their armies. The prototype of the fan of those days can still be seen today in the military fan carried by the Sumo Gyoji.

The tale of Genji picture scroll 12th century  The tale of Genji picture scroll 12th century
The tale of Genji picture scroll 12th century
Kiyonaga torii the 18th century
Kiyonaga Torii the 18th century


Later, fans were also made lighter by using paper and bamboo. The paper was covered with gold leaf and painters were asked to draw luxurious patterns on it, which became popular among aristocrats. By the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867), the era of mass production and mass consumption had begun. The price of fans could no longer be met by hand-drawing, and woodblock printing techniques were used to make them affordable to the general public.

 Utamaro Kitagawa, 19th century Utamaro Kitagawa, 19th century
Utamaro Kitagawa, 19th century


Taking use of its position as a publisher of ukiyo-e prints, Ibasen at that time ordered ukiyo-e artists of the day such as Toyokuni Utagawa, Kuniyoshi, and Hiroshige to produce and sell "fans as media" depicting summer scenes and tourist attractions.

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