Marugame uchiwa fans Marugame uchiwa
Fans made from a single piece of bamboo
Still an important piece of Japanese daily life
What is Marugame uchiwa fans ?
Marugame Uchiwa are a type of fan made in the area around Marugame City, Kagawa Prefecture. It is believed that, in the early Edo period, the first Marugame Uchiwa were made as souvenirs for pilgrims to the Konpira shrine. The original design included a vermilion ground color and an enclosed character meaning gold in the center to represent the shrine; the whole surface was coated with persimmon tannin.
In the Tenmei era (1781-1789), low-ranking samurais in the Marugame domain were encouraged to make fans to supplement their income, and production grew to become a well-known local industry. The fan handle and framework are often made from a single piece of bamboo, and handle designs come in flat and round shapes. Marugame Uchiwa make up around 90 % of the production of domestic fans.
Although the mass production of machine-made resinous fans account for most production, bamboo fans incorporating the traditional skills of craftsmen are considered to have more character.
Marugame Uchiwa are light, fit the hand well, and are comfortable to use, they have a kind of depth not shared by resinous fans. Fan production peaked around 1955, followed by a fall in demand due to the increasing popularity of electric fans and air conditioners.
Marugame Uchiwa are revered throughout Japan as a successful local industry, and producers still keep developing exclusive folk-art fans and elaborately designed interior fans.
Marugame Uchiwa is a fusion of three traditions, firstly a persimmon tannin-covered fan made during the Edo period from a thicker bamboo with an enclosed motif, developed by a chief priest of the Konko-in temple attached to the Konpira shrine in 1633. Secondly a fan made from thinner bamboo with an enclosed motif, whose production was encouraged by the Marugame domain in the 1780s, and thirdly a flat handled shioya fan modeled after traditional fans typical of Nara, which was promoted by a wholesale store in Tomiya Town in the Meiji period.
Takijirou OKUBO opened a factory in Shioya village sometime between 1892 and 1896. In 1894, the first incorporated business seen in the fan industry, the Marugame Fan Limited Partnership Company, was established. In 1904, the Oya Company was established to sell flat handle fans directly from factories to outlets outside the prefecture, and would lead to the development of overseas markets in India and the US. In the early Taisho era, Takejiro WAKI made cutting and drilling machines to simplify the process of fan making, and since local businesses were permitted to freely use these new machines, fan production greatly increased making Marugame the most popular fan production area in Japan.
In addition, the invention of a logo printing machine between 1933 and 1935 gave the industry a boost. Marugame fans with individual printed or company names became popular as advertising and promotional goods or commemorative items.
After 1938, and during World War 2, production increased, with flat handle fans becoming a new staple product and replacing the thinner handle fans with their enclosed motif. Production of Marugame fans hit a peak between 1955 and 1964 after which Japan embraced electric fans and air conditioning and sales dropped. But even today, it is revered as one of the great crafts in Japan and loved by people who appreciate genuine items and enjoy a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
General Production Process
- 1. Conversion of bamboo
Making use of the easy-to-split nature of bamboo, logs are cut into 40 to 45 cm lengths, and then split into equal widths. These slats are then planed on the inner surface of the bamboo joint, to make them smooth and a comfortable fit for the hand.
- 2. Splitting
35 to 45 lengthwise cuts of about 10 cm are made from the head of the bamboo with a cutting machine.
- 3. Drilling
In this stage, a hole is bored in the joint part with a gimlet, ready for a kama bamboo bar. The bar is prepared by another specialized craftsman.
- 4. Handle planing
The fan’s handle is planed thin with a knife. According to the fan type, different finishing touches may also be applied to the handle.
- 5. Entwining
After passing the bar through the hole, the splits are entwined with thread.
- 6. Binding
Since the splits will have warped in the entwining process, the angle of the arched bar is adjusted to make the fan symmetrical, and then bound with thread.
- 7. Pasting
The split head is pasted on and covered with paper.
- 8. Cutting
The splits are cut to shape such as a full moon or egg; a sickle is placed on the fan and hit with a mallet.
- 9. Edge processing
A long paper slip is pasted to secure the fan’s edge, followed by strips of paper on both sides of the bar; the fan is pressed with a roller to finish.
Where to Buy & More Information
Uchiwa No Minato Museum
ClosedMondays (open if Monday is a holiday and closed the next day), December 28 to January 1
Business Hours9:30am to 5pm
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