It is a fact that Japan is a country full of history, scientific and technological innovations, unique cuisine and diverse landscapes. Something that also draws a lot of attention in this country are the many cultural symbols and icons that emerge over time. These symbols represent Japan in many ways around the world. It is one of those striking symbols are the japanese fans. These fans are widely used in Japanese culture and society.
In addition to providing a cool breeze in hot times, these are also associated with traditional dances and cultural aspects of Japan. They are one of the most sold products and taken as souvenirs because they are beautiful, functional and practical. , the history, meaning and some interesting facts about Japanese fans.
A little history and curiosities of the fuan
Folding fans were invented in Japan between the 6th and 9th centuries. However, the first literary references of the fan in both Japan and China date from the 5th century. Even a dictionary written around the year 935 lists two types of fans, the Uchiwa it's the Ougi.
Fans did not gain popularity and commerce in Japan until the 12th century. These were used for ceremonial purposes and remained until the 19th century as an item of the Japanese court. In the beginning only the emperor was allowed to use the fan called Hiogi. Although, over time, use was allowed for all social levels.
Over time, several variations of this item appeared. The fan called Gunsen it was used by Generals, Samurai and court officials as a means of signaling during battles. There were also those used in plays and dance shows called Chukei or Noh.
Fan fame in Japan continued, but it was in the Edo period (1690-1868) that popularization and most significant changes occurred. Artisanal production has greatly increased compared to previous periods. The use and marketing of fans in Japan surpassed those in China as they ended up becoming a symbol of Japanese life.
The main variations of Japanese fans
These fans are traditionally made of wood strips and washi or silk paper. The ones made in silk are considered more valuable and special. The wooden rods symbolized the rays of the sun illuminating, which sustains life, represented by the drawings. As said, there are many variations of that same item. But the main styles are those already mentioned, the Uchiwa and the Ougi.
Ougi (扇) are made with wood and silk and these are considered the symbol of a high social status. Another alternative name is sensu (扇子) which is practically the same thing but minor. Most of these fans have beautiful patterns and images. Perhaps the most popular design is cherry blossoms. The main advantage of this type of fan is its easy transport and handling.
Because it is foldable, it consumes a small space inside bags. So it can be used anywhere during a tour or a trip. These can be of various sizes. But, generally those about 20 cm are intended for women and those of 23 cm or more are intended for men.
Uchiwa (団扇), unlike the Ougi style, are not foldable. That is why they are not so common, as they are neither practical nor portable. They are usually made with narrow pieces of bamboo, lined with paper or silk, covering the entire part of the wood. These are mostly used by stores, companies, among others, as a means of advertising, especially during the summer season.
So, they are usually distributed free of charge in advertising campaigns or at various events. The Uchiwas are most associated with the customs, culture and history of Japan. Their appearance is similar to a tennis racket.
Symbolism associated with Japanese fans
There are many symbolisms on top of fans in Japan. They themselves are already a symbol of prosperity and when opening it can be associated with the expansion of wealth. As the wooden rods leave a single place in several directions, it can be considered as the various paths we face through life. Standard fans usually have the odd number of images printed on them. This is considered as a symbol of happiness and prosperity.
Colors can also have some meanings. Reds and whites are considered lucky and golds attract wealth. Fans that are given as gifts represent the desire for a long and lucky life for the person. The drawings also have a lot of meanings. For example, bird couples are a symbol of a loving couple. Plum blossoms represent a new beginning and cherry blossoms represent the love for the country. Cherry trees can also represent wealth and good luck. A horse represents mercy the carp represents luck and long life and the lion symbolizes force.
So, the meaning varies a lot, from the color to the design represented on it. Japanese fans are a good option to buy as a souvenir or for your own use. You can easily find them in different stores, both in Japan and in other parts of the world.