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 Tateyama City and Minamiboso City in Chiba Prefecture. This is one of Japan’s three most famous uchiwa fans, along with Marugame Uchiwa (Marugame City, Kagawa Prefecture) and Kyo Uchiwa (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture).
The characteristic of Boshu Uchiwa is the use of maru-e patterns with onnadake bamboo, rather than the otokodakehira-e pattern flatly planed with large otokodake bamboo as seen in Marugame Uchiwa or the sashi-e later insertion of patterns into the fan surface as seen in Kyo Uchiwa. Maru-e refers to cutting a piece of onnadake bamboo around 1.5cm thick into 64 parts to produce bones, and tying these bones together with thread to make a folding fan, which causes a beautiful lattice pattern to appear in the semi-circular part known as the “window”. Onnadake bamboo is a type of fine, small bamboo, and in Boshu Uchiwa the bamboo growing wild in the mountains of the Boshu region is used as a raw material, which is collected in the cold season from October to January when bamboo is at its driest.
For a long time, traditional Japanese ukiyo-e prints and bijin-ga drawings have been used as the patterns for Boshu Uchiwa. Recently, though, there has also been an increase in folk craft patterns and application of materials such as yukata and maiwai fabric.
Uchiwa fans were first produced in the Kanto region in the Tenmei Era (1781-1788) of the Edo Period. Boshu was an area where good quality onnadake bamboo (the raw material for uchiwa fans) was produced, but uchiwa fans were not yet produced here in the Edo Period.
There are two theories regarding the time when uchiwa production began in Boshu. One is according to the Chiho Shiryo Shokan issued by Chiba Prefecture in 1911, which states that production began in Nako-machi (presently Nako, in Tateyama City) in 1877, and the other is according to the Boso Choson-to-Jinbutsu issued in 1918, which says that production of uchiwa bones began with the hiring of artisans from Tokyo by Sougorou IWAKI in Nako-machi in 1884.
From the Meiji Period through to the Taisho Period, fan 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 where onnadake bamboo was being shipped from, and attempted integrated production of every part from fan bones through to the finished product. Thereafter, 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 (uchiwa producer)
The selection of onnadake bamboo, the raw material used to produce the fans, starts around October of each year. Onnadake bamboo whose insides have become firm, with no insects attached, and is about as thick as a finger is collected and cut to the required length. Bamboo of uniform thickness is required for the production of uchiwa fans, so only 2 to 3 pieces can be made from a single bamboo.
2. Peeling of husks (uchiwa producer)
The husk of the onnadake bamboo is removed, and sprouts around the nodes are cut off.
- 3. Polishing (uchiwa producer)
Bamboo that has had its husk removed is placed inside a polishing machine with rice husks and washed with water, after which the surfaces are polished. Once the polishing process has ended, the rice husks are removed and the pieces are dried.
- 4. Watering (splitter)
Eight cuts are made in the bamboo, which are placed at the bottom and softened by soaking overnight in water.
- 5. Splitting the bamboo (splitter)
The parts slightly above the nodes are fixed by entwining with thread, and the bamboo is cut into eight pieces along the cuts until the thread position. Thereafter, the bamboo is cut into 16, 32 and 64 pieces while cutting away excess wood.
- 6. Kneading (uchiwa producer)
The partitioned bamboo is collected into bundles of 3 to 4 sticks, and is strongly rolled on top of corrugated stone or concrete blocks. This makes the angles of the partitioned bamboo parts smooth.
- 7. Drilling (uchiwa producer)
A hole, which the knitting pin known as a “bow” passes through, is carefully drilled into the part beneath the node to ensure that the bamboo does not break.
- 8. Amidake bamboo (knitter)
Around 10cm above the partitioned parts, thread is entwined with the bones so that the partitioned bamboo forms a straight line. There are methods of entwining one stick or two sticks at a time, but expensive uchiwa uses the former as this produces a more beautiful finish.
- 9. Handle attachment (uchiwa producer)
The handle is cut to the appropriate length, and a thin willow branch is inserted into the cavity inside the handle.
- 10. Hole opening (yuge-ya)
Japanese timber bamboo is finely cut open, and both sides are finely sliced to prepare the shape to produce a bow, which is then attached to the amidake bamboo.
- 11. Bottom window (bottom window worker)
The folding fan is spread open so that the gaps in the bamboo are uniform, and thread entwined with amidake bamboo is provisionally tied to the end of the bow.
- 12. Window production (bottom window worker)
The bow, where thread has been pulled through a hole, is curved and the thread is pulled tightly and tied again to ensure that there is no slackness. After securing the thread, the shape of the bound bamboo is readjusted to produce a window.
- 13. Picking up the loop (uchiwa producer)
Thin bamboo is inserted slightly above the thread, and the shape is prepared by flattening the bones spread out on the other side.
- 14. Cut slicing (uchiwa producer)
Using a straw cutter tool, the excess parts of the bones are cut off to produce the shape of the uchiwa.
- 15. Baking (uchiwa producer)
In order to make the bones straight, the central parts are heated with a gas burner or heated metal to establish the shape. Once the skeleton is stable, the bamboo sticks are removed. At this point, the fan bones are complete.
- 16. Binding (binder)
Paper or cloth that has been cut into the shape of the uchiwa in advance is bound onto the bones. The bones are coated with glue using a paintbrush, attached to the surface, and the fan is put into shape with a bamboo spatula so that the gaps between bones become uniform. Thereafter, the other side is attached.
- 17. Cutting (uchiwa producer)
Using a straw cutter or a cutting machine, the ends of the bones are cut uniformly to match the shape of the uchiwa.
- 18. Edge processing (edge worker)
To ensure that cut parts do not break or split, long and narrow cut pieces of washi are attached to the edges of the uchiwa between the holes and the bones.
- 19. Undercoating (uchiwa producer)
A liquid made by mixing glue and a shell powder known as powdered calcium carbonate is applied to the gaps at the bottom of the handle, and the tip of the bottom of the handle is given a rounded finish.
- 20. Overcoating (uchiwa producer)
After the undercoating has dried, color is applied to the bottom of the handle by coating lacquer or pigment on top of the undercoating.
- 21. Finishing (uchiwa produced）
The part of the uchiwa that is coated with paper is finished by making adjustments through a roller so that the lines of the bones stand out on the paper or cloth.
- 22. Completion
The Boshu Uchiwa fans are finally complete after undergoing the subdivided processes above.
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