Kyo-Folding fan is a work of art that adds color to any occasion | Traditional Japanese crafts in Kyoto

kyoto-folding fan
Source: Maisendo

Kyo Sensu(Folding fan) is a Traditional Craft that
Creates the Luster of Kyoto

 A Folding fan made in Kyoto or its suburbs is
called a Kyo Sensu. This “Kyo Senshi” is a trademark that can only be
used by members registered with the Kyoto Senshi Fan Commerce and Industry
Cooperative Association. Fan making began in the Heian period (794-1185), and
at that time, fans were made from a series of cypress boards called hinoki-fan.
From there, it developed into the paper fans that are distributed today, and
were exported not only domestically but also to China, Europe, and other


What is a Kyo Sensu?

Main types of Kyo Sensu (1) “Summer

Kyo-Sensu is used to keep cool. This is the
type commonly used. They come in a variety of colors, from light shades to
eye-catching modern patterns. When opening and closing them, you can feel the
smoothness unique to fans that have been handled by craftsmen.

folding fan
Source: Tokuno Corp.

Main types of Kyoto folding fans (2)

This is a Kyo-fan used for dancing in
general. There are fans with the crests of various schools and those that match
the performance of the dance. Since they are used for dancing, many of them are
more prestigious and elegant in design than others, and the craftsmen’s
attention to detail can be seen in the colors.

folding fan
Source: Tokuno Corp.

Main types of Kyoto-style folding fans (3)

Kyo Sensu is used at tea ceremonies. It is
placed in front of the knees as a boundary when greeting guests. It is slightly
smaller than a summer fan, and since it is rarely used open, most fans seem to
have a simple design. However, there are also playful tea fans, so it is fun to
look around for the one you like best.


traditional folding fan
Source: Itotsune Corp.

Main types of Kyo-fans (4) “Silk fans

This type of Kyo-fan was reimported from
Europe. It is Western-style and easy to hold even today. Since it is made of
silk, its translucent texture is cool and popular. It is attractive in that it
can be easily matched with Western clothes. Today, this type is produced in
large numbers because it is the most comfortable for daily use.

folding fan
Source: Tokuno Corp.

Main types of Kyo-Sensu (5)
“Congratulatory folding fan

Kyo Sensu are used for celebratory
occasions such as weddings. The situation in which it can be used differs
depending on the design. Since fans are considered lucky charms due to their
endless spreading shape, they are ideal as gifts for celebratory occasions.

traditional folding fan
Source: Yamatake Senpo

Main types of Kyo-fusen (6)
“Shimaisen” (folding fan)

Mai-fans for Noh plays. Many are luxurious
and gorgeous, and can be used as home decorations. Flowers and pictures of pine
trees decorated on a gold background emit a beauty that attracts the viewer.
Nohgaku is a traditional Japanese dance, and fans are used as props.

Kyo-folding fan
Source: Yamatake Senpo

History of Kyo Sensu

Kyo Sensu began in the early Heian period

The origin of the Kyo-sensu fan is said to
have come from the Mokkan, a long, thin wooden board in the shape of a
strip of paper used to write letters. The oldest fan-shaped fan-shaped Mokkan
in Japan is a hinoki hifan-ogi*1 found in a Buddhist statue (for more Buddhist Altar, see Yamagata Buddhist Altar, Hikone Butsudan, or Iiyama Buddhist Altar) at To-ji Temple in
Kyoto. This fan is inscribed with the date of “Genkei Gyogyo first
year” (877).

1 Japanese cypress fan ogi: Wooden fan ogi
used by male aristocrats during court ceremonies.

Muromachi Period (1336-1573): Influenced by
Tang-style fans

Since the Heian period (794-1185), fan ogis
have been used for ceremonial purposes and gift-giving, but in the Muromachi
period (1333-1573), fans were made exclusively for Noh theater, tea ceremony,
and incense ceremony. Also in the Muromachi period (1333-1573), a fan-sensu
called kamisen, made of bamboo and paper and influenced by Tangen-tosen
(Chinese folding fans), appeared.

Overseas exports began in the Kamakura
period (1185-1333)

Around the 13th century, Kyo-fan
kyosen-susi began to be exported to China. Furthermore, Kyo Sensu was
introduced to Europe via India. Kyo Sensu was introduced to China and Europe,
and Western-style culture was added there. Later, the fan sensu with new
elements were reimported to Japan, and silk kinu sensu with silk pasted on the
fan surface came to be produced.

Kyo Sensu accounts for 90% of domestic

Today, Kyo Sensen Senzu accounts for about
90% of the domestic production of folding fans, and is highly valued for its
artistic quality both in Japan and abroad. In addition, Kyo Sensu has been
handed down by craftsmen as one of the most popular traditional Japanese
culture both in Japan and abroad.

Manufacturing Methods and Processes

1. Senkotsu (fan bone) processing and
do-giri (cutting)

The fan bone is cut into round slices,
excluding the joints, to make the fan bone.

2. Waritake (split bamboo)

Bamboo (for more bamboo products, refer to Suruga Bamboo lighting or Gifu Chochin) is steamed and split into small
pieces the width of the fan bone. A mold for measuring the split bamboo, a
split knife, and a mallet are used to split the bamboo.

3. Senbiki

The first step is to separate the inner
white part of the bamboo from the outer skin by rough cutting, and then thinly
shave both sides of the skin to finish. After thinning, the bamboo is left to
dry thoroughly over a day and night.

4. Eye Firring

After drilling a hole through the fan bone,
dozens of pieces are threaded onto bamboo or iron skewers and soaked in water
for two to three days to soften them.

5. Mounting

This is the process of forming the fan
bone. The skewered fan bones are lined up on a stand like a board and shaved
using a chisel and a uniquely shaped knife called a “wakikaki.

6. Shirahoshi

Shira-hoshi is done to remove the bluish
color of the bamboo. The fan bone is formed in the drying process, and is then
left outdoors to dry in the sun.

7. Migaki (polishing)

Migaki is done with a tool called
“inoki,” which is made of boar tusks.

8. Kanameuchi

The fan bone is completed by cutting the
main part through the hole and then shaving the end of the fan. In the sue-suki
process, the middle bone, the part of the fan bone that is inserted into the
fan face, is shaved one by one with a plane to make it thinner and thinner.

9. Jigami Processing

Jigami is the paper used to make the fan
surface. Jigami processing involves matching, drying, and cutting. Matching is
the process of laminating Japanese paper, called hikagami, from both sides
around the core paper (shingami). In order for the core paper to be separated
into two layers when the “spatula opening” is made to insert the
center bone, skillful glue adjustment is required during the mending process.
After laminating, the paper is allowed to dry before cutting into fan shapes.

10. Decorative Processing and Foil Stamping

The fan-shaped base paper is sometimes
decorated with gold leaf. Gold leaf is cut on the deerskin with a bamboo
spatula, and then scattered on the base paper in fine grains, or foil is
stamped to match the design pattern. In addition, a technique called
“mujioshi,” which is unique to Kyoto, is used to press extremely thin
gold leaf all over the base paper, and requires highly skilled techniques.

11. Uwae and Mokuhanga Zuri (Woodblock

Uwae is the process of applying the
painting to the base paper. The painter paints with a brush or brush using
paint mixed with bittern. In addition to hand-painting, there are other methods
of decoration such as “Tsuki-ban” and “Kirigata-surimomi,”
with “Tsuki-ban” being a technique unique to Kyoto.

12. Folding

After the “hera-guchi-daki”
process, in which the laminated core paper is split into two layers with a
bamboo spatula, the moistened base paper is placed between the ori-gata and
folded, starting from the front.

13. Nakazashi

A thin bamboo insert is used to create a
space for the middle bone where the two layers were removed in the
“hera-guchi-akira” process.

14. Mangiri

The unneeded portion is cut off at the top
and bottom of the jigami with a mangiri knife to make it the specified size.

15. Finishing and Nakatsuke

Nakatsuke is the process of blowing the gap
created in the Nakazashi process with the mouth and inserting the glued
Nakabone into the widened gap to glue the Jigami and Nakabone together. The
more fan bones there are, the narrower the gap to insert the middle bone, so
skilled work is required.

16. Oyakoatsu

First, the fan’s Oyabone (Main structure) is warmed and bent
inward together with the “tamekawa” in a process called Oyatame.
Oyatame improves the tightness of the fan when it is closed, and the
“snapping” sound it makes when closed is also a result of the oyatame
technique. Finally, glue is applied to the inner side of the main frame, and
the fan is dried on both ends of the base paper.

kyoto traditional folding fan
Source: @Press

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