Uchiwa, the Japanese fan 団扇
Don't take all the advertising fans that you are offered, or you'll be forced to buy an extra suitcase!
The difference between bamboo and plastic uchiwa is obvious, but the same shape is retained.
A finely decorated, artisan uchiwa can become a valuable collector's item.
The essential summer accessory
The uchiwa, traditional fan, is an essential accessory in the summer in Japan. This fan will become your best friend in the 40°C summer heat!
The uchiwa comes in a wide range of shapes and designs - from oval, or round, to square, with a fixed handle. It has a very long history in Japan. It differs from the the foldable designs from other countries, and has a different function.
The traditional uchiwa
Traditionally, an uchiwa is made of bamboo. The handle is made from many layers, which form the structure on which the paper is stuck, giving it a strong bamboo frame. Today many uchiwa are made of plastic but still keep the shape of the original bamboo fan.
The everyday uchiwa
The uchiwa is a summer accessory, but can be found all over Japan throughout the year. It's not uncommon to receive plastic uchiwa printed with advertisements, distributed free in the streets. These are the most common, and very practical. Some people even collect them!
Uchiwa for special occasions
You can still buy beautifully hand-crafted bamboo uchiwa at specialty stores like Itoya, or in traditional stores. They are decorated with colorful traditional patterns. This kind of uchiwa is also given as gifts to guests at events taking place in summer: weddings, meetings, and the like.
Uchiwa for artists
Finally, if you go to 100 yen stores, you can find plastic uchiwa covered with white paper, designed to be decorated. Children can decorate these and give them to their parents as gifts. Adults stick with tradition and write short poems or proverbs on theirs. Others will make collages with pictures and photos to commemorate a trip.
This kind of uchiwa is a great way to unleash your inner artist...