Kyo folding fans Kyo sensu
87 steps to create this masterpiece
A part of Noh theater, wedding ceremonies and outdoor events
What is Kyo folding fans ?
Kyo folding fans are called Kyo sensu in Japanese, sensu meaning "folding fan". They are mainly produced in Kyoto. From old times they have been valued as high quality art works because of their beautiful designs with gold or silver leaves or gold lacquer (makie in Japanese). Kyo folding fans are mainly made of carefully selected bamboo and paper or silk. The type of bamboo used is light and flexible which make it ideal for the fan ribs.
Kyo folding fans are characterized by their wide variety of types for any occasions. To name a few, there are hiogi (Japanese cypress folding fans) made by stacking many thin Japanese cypress wood slats, kawahoriogi (literally a "bat's wing") made by pasting Japanese traditional paper (washi) on 5 to 6 thin ribs, maiogi used on the Noh stage (a traditional Japanese theater play), chaogi for tea ceremonies and shukugisen for any official ceremonies or events. According to the materials and manufacturing methods Kyo folding fan is categorized into two types: hariogi (pasted fan) and itaogi (plated fan). The type of hariogi is further divided into kamisen (paper fan) and kinusen (silk fan), while itaogi is made by stacking thin slats of aromatic tree such as white sandalwood.
The main common point between each of these types is that they all require a large number of artisans involved in the production of a single fan. There are also about 87 processes which all require craftsmanship and time. Kyo folding fans are not only beautiful, but they are also useful in daily life, flexible with so many pliable fan ribs, and ideal to give gentle breezes.
It is considered that the first Kyo folding fans were derived from wooden plate notes called mokkan dating from the early Heian period (794-1185). A fan discovered inside a Buddhist statue in the temple of Toji in Kyoto is considered to be Japan's oldest fan. It was a hiogi fan and is inscribed with the characters "the first year of the Genkei period (877)".
In the mid Heian period, kawahoriogi became popular as summer fans. In the Fujiwara period (894-1185), hiogi were made for emperors and princes, and in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), under the influence of Chinese fans, kamisen made of bamboo and paper first appeared. From the Heian period, folding fans were an essential part of social etiquette and were often given as gifts or simply served a useful purpose. However, it was not until the Muromachi period that the production begun for the fans used in Noh theater, incense art and tea ceremonies, or any other occasions.
Around the 13th century, the distribution of folding fans was not only in local areas such as Edo (ancient name of Tokyo) as Kyoto producers started exporting fans overseas including to China. It is said that Kyo folding fans made their way to India and even further afield to Europe and were adopted into the Western style design fans. Fans once exported overseas were later reimported and kinusen type fan using silk or cotton cloth was created.
General Production Process
- 1. Making ribs: cutting bamboo
The bamboo is cut and the joints are removed to make the fan ribs.
- 2. Splitting bamboo
After steaming, the bamboo is finely sliced to the rib width by using a pattern to measure the length and a knife or mallet.
- 3. Carving the ribs
After a rough planing to separate the white interior layer from the exterior bark, the exterior bark is planed thin on both sides, and left to dry for a day and night.
- 4. Drilling
A hole is drilled in the base of the ribs and they are threaded onto a bamboo or metal skewer and left to soak and soften in water for 2 to 3 days. The hole will eventually be fitted with the final rivet.
- 5. Shaping
Dozens of skewered ribs are laid out on a worktop and then cut and shaved to the final shape with a chisel and a unique-shaped knife called a wakikaki.
- 6. Air drying
Air drying outside in the sun removes the shade of blue from the bamboo.
- 7. Polishing
A tool made of wild boar tusk is used for polishing.
- 8. Fitting the rivet
The ribs are riveted, trimmed and the ends of the ribs are planed in preparation for being inserted into the fan paper. The now thin and narrowed section of the rib is known as nakabone.
- 9. Paper processing
The preparation of the paper consists of a process called awase drying, and cutting the fan shape. Awase is pasting shell paper onto both sides of the core paper. This is a difficult task as it is important for the core paper to separate into two layers when the thinned ribs are inserted. After pasting and drying, the layered sheets are cut into the fan shape.
- 10. Foil decoration
Fan-shaped paper are sometimes decorated with gold leaves. With a bamboo spatula, gold leaf is cut on buckskin or on the ground into gold dust and then scattered on the paper. It could also be applied directly to the design; both techniques add gorgeous coloration to Kyo folding fans. Moreover, in the plain pressing technique only found in Kyoto, extremely thin gold leaves cover the whole paper.
- 11. Painting, woodblock printing
In this stage, a picture is drawn on the paper using colors mixed with glue, and applied by a single brush or multiple brushes. In addition to hand drawing, decoration is applied using techniques unique to Kyoto called kirigata surikomi or tsukihan.
- 12. Folding
A bamboo spatula is used to split the pasted core paper into two layers, and then the damp paper is inserted between folding molds, and each crease is individually folded.
- 13. Opening
Using a thin bamboo tool a space to insert each rib is created in the part that was split into two layers.
- 14. Cutting
To adjust to the right size, the excess paper at the top and bottom of the paper is removed using a large blade.
- 15. Finishing
This process consists in blowing up and inflating the space created during the opening process in order to ease the insertion of the glue coated ribs. The larger the number of ribs, the narrower the space to insert them is, which requires a high craftsmanship to work on details.
- 16. Attaching the side guards A process called oyatame is carried out in which the side guards (called oyabone) of the fan are warmed to bend inward along with the tamekawa. Oyatame ensures the fan closes tightly and helps producing the characteristic sharp snapping sound. Finally, glue is applied to the inner side of the side guards, and attached to both ends of the paper and left to dry.
We have preserved the traditions of the Kyo folding fans while adding different modern touches for a new look. We created collections with different artists and other industries and all our fans are hand-made using many different materials by highly skilled artisans. Our contemporary fans can accessorize any look while bringing some folklore to your everyday life.
ClosedWednesdays (open every day from May to August)
Business Hours10am to 6pm/7pm from May to August
Our folding fans are all carefully inspected one by one to make sure that we can provide our customers with the best quality.
From the design and production to shipment, our fans are created by highly skilled professionals.
ClosedSundays, national holidays, 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of the month / All weekends from September to November
Business Hours9am to 5pm/6pm on Saturdays
Where to Buy & More Information
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
ClosedDecember 29 to January 3
Business Hours9am to 5pm
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