Boshu uchiwa fans Boshu uchiwa
Beautiful semicircular patterns
Fresh and delicate bamboo ribs
What is Boshu uchiwa fans ?
Boshu uchiwa is a type of fan made in the areas around the cities of Tateyama and Minamiboso in Chiba prefecture. This is one of Japan’s big three uchiwa types, with the other two being Marugame (Kagawa prefecture) and Kyo uchiwa (Kyoto prefecture).
What makes Boshu uchiwa distinct from the other kinds of uchiwa fans is the use of a maru-e pattern with small bamboo, rather than an odakehira-e pattern with large bamboo, odake, like in Marugame uchiwa or the later insertion of patterns into the surface like in Kyo uchiwa. A maru-e pattern is when a medake bamboo around 1.5 cm thick is cut into sixty-four parts to produce the framework or bones. The bones are then tied together with threads to make a folding fan, which causes a lattice pattern to appear in the semi-circular part of the fan.
For a long time, traditional ukiyo-e prints and drawings of feminine figures have been used as the patterns for Boshu uchiwa fans. Recently, though, there has been an increase in folk craft patterns and the application of materials such as yukata and maiwai fabric.
*Medake is a type of small, wild bamboo that is collected when at its driest during the cold season (October to January) from the mountains of the Boshu region while odake is a larger, thicker bamboo.
Uchiwa fans were first produced in the Kanto region between the years 1781 and 1788. Boshu was an area where good quality medake bamboo was grown, but uchiwa fans were not yet produced there in the Edo period (1603-1868).
There are two theories about the beginning of uchiwa production in Boshu. According to a regional document issued by Chiba prefecture in 1911, production began in Nako-machi (presently the city of Tateyama) in 1877. Meanwhile, another document issued in 1918 states that production began with the hiring of artisans from Tokyo by Sougorou IWAKI in Nako-machi in 1884.
From the Meiji period (1868-1912) through to the Taisho period (1912-1926), fan frameworks or bones were produced in Boshu and finished as Edo uchiwa in Tokyo. Boshu uchiwa began in 1921, when Torakichi YOKOYAMA, an uchiwa wholesaler in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, built a factory in Funakata, Chiba prefecture where medake bamboo was being shipped from, and attempted integrated production of every part from fan bones through to the finished product. Then, due to Tokyo’s uchiwa factories being catastrophically damaged in the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, full-scale production of fans commenced in Funakata.
General Production Process
- 1. Cutting of bamboo
The selection of the raw material used to produce the fans, medake bamboo, starts around October of each year. Bamboo about as thick as a finger with firm insides and no insects is collected and cut to the required length. Bamboo of uniform thickness is required for the production of uchiwa fans, so only two to three can be made from a single bamboo.
- 2. Peeling of husks
The husk of the bamboo is removed and any sprouts surrounding the nodes are cut off.
- 3. Polishing
Bamboo with its husk removed is placed with rice husks inside a polishing machine and washed with water, after which the surface is polished. Once the polishing process has finished, the rice husks are removed and the bamboo is dried.
- 4. Watering
Eight cuts are made at the bottom of the bamboo, which is then softened by soaking overnight in water.
- 5. Splitting the bamboo
The parts slightly above the nodes are fixed in place by entwining with thread, and the bamboo is cut into eight pieces along the cuts from the previous step until the position of the thread. Thereafter, the bamboo is cut into sixteen, thirty-two, and sixty-four pieces while excess wood is cut away.
- 6. Smoothing
The segmented bamboo is collected into bundles of three to four sticks and strongly rolled on top of corrugated stone or concrete blocks. This makes the angles of the bamboo parts smooth.
- 7. Drilling
So the bamboo does not break, a knitting pin is used to carefully drill a hole into the section beneath the node.
- 8. Entwining bamboo
Around ten centimeters above the partitioned parts, thread is entwined with the framework so that the bamboo pieces form a straight line. There are methods of entwining one or two sticks at a time, but expensive fans use this method as this produces a more beautiful finish.
- 9. Handle attachment
The handle is cut to the appropriate length and a thin willow branch is inserted into a hollow in the handle.
- 10. Hole opening
Odake bamboo is cut open finely and both sides are sliced into a bow shape, which are then attached to the woven bamboo.
- 11. Bottom window
The folding fan is spread open so that the gaps in the bamboo are uniform. Thread entwined with the woven bamboo is temporarily tied to the end of the bow shaped bamboo.
- 12. Window production
The bow shape, where thread has been pulled through a hole, is bent into a curve and the thread is pulled tightly and retied to ensure that there is no looseness. After securing the thread, the shape of the tied bamboo is readjusted to create a window near the handle.
- 13. Picking up the loop
Thin bamboo is inserted slightly above where the thread is. The shape is prepared by flattening the structure spread out on the other side.
- 14. Cut slicing
Using a straw cutter tool, the excess parts of the framework are cut off to produce the shape of the fan.
- 15. Heating
In order to make the fan's framework straight, the main parts are heated with a gas burner or heated metal. Once the shape is stable, the bamboo sticks are removed. At this point, the structure of the fan is complete.
- 16. Binding
Paper or cloth that has been cut in advance into the shape of the fan is bound onto the skeleton of the fan. The framework is coated with glue using a paintbrush, the paper, or cloth is attached to the surface, and the fan is shaped with a bamboo spatula so that the gaps of the skeleton are uniform. Then the cloth or paper is attached to the other side.
- 17. Cutting
Using a straw cutter or cutting machine, the ends of the skeleton are cut uniformly to match the shape of the fan.
- 18. Edge processing
To ensure parts that have been cut do not break or split, long and narrow cut pieces of washi (Japanese traditional paper) are attached to the edges between the holes and the skeleton.
- 19. Undercoating
A liquid mixture of glue and powdered calcium carbonate, a shell powder, is applied to the gaps at the bottom of the handle. The end of the bottom of the handle is given a rounded finish.
- 20. Overcoating
After the undercoating has dried, lacquer or pigment is coated over the bottom of the handle, in order to add color.
- 21. Finishing touches
The part of the fan that is coated with paper is finished after a roller is used so that the lines of the framework stand out on the paper or cloth.
- 22. Completion
The Boshu uchiwa fans are finally complete.
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