Matsumotos Corner Vol.17


- Folding Fan -

The handheld fan of folding type is called SENSU in Japanese. I had assumed it was created in China, but recently I found out this folding fan was invented in old Japan. It was first made as a notepad for writing, with a hole drilled at the end of a thin wooden strip, a string threaded through it, and several pieces fastened together at a point.

SENSU, thus the prototype appeared over a thousand years ago, has since been deeply
integrated into Japanese culture. Apart from its most popular use of blowing air, the folding fan is also seen in many other traditional situations like in performing arts such as Noh play, Kyogen and Kabuki, tea ceremonies and social rituals, and gifts. Also, traditionally, we have ornamental folding fans with highly artistic paintings and even SENSU made of iron as a self-defence tool!

But the most familiar use is, of course, to keep cool in the heat of summer. Nowadays, SENSU ranges from very sophisticated and expensive ones to more practical ones that you can buy at 100 yen shops. As a handy cooler or a tasteful accessory or ornament, it’s nice to have one.