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How to Use your Japanese Folding Fan the Right Way

The Different Uses of the Folding Fan in Japanese Culture

Many people may think of the folding fan as something to put on the wall for decoration or as an accessory used by noble ladies at social gatherings. They are among our recommended best summer souvenirs. However, in Japan, the folding fan is an object primarily for cooling oneself and is used by women and men alike. 

The primitive form of the folding fan originated in Japan during the Heian period, when slender strips of wood were used for writing notations. These were bound on one side so that they could be carried around more easily. 

Fans made their way to China, where they came to have paper glued on both sides. They were next introduced all over Europe. Sometime later, they were re-imported back to Japan, where they also became popular among the commoners.Folding fans are also an essential object in the Japanese art world. For example, in the tea ceremony, the single gesture of placing a folding fan in front of oneself is used to indicate a feeling of respect for the other party. Rakugo comedians use the fan to mime all sorts of different objects. Meanwhile, in Noh, it means that one has created a barrier around oneself and does not exist in that place.

障子, 屋内, 建物, 吊るす が含まれている画像

The folding fan is also used in traditional Japanese dancing.

How to Open Your Folding Fan the Right Way

So, let’s see how to conduct oneself beautifully while holding a fan.

When using a fan, it is crucial to do so in a leisurely, fluid way to amplify its beauty. To open the fan, push the sticks with your left thumb to stagger them out.

To open the fan, push the sticks with your left thumb. Photo credit: Hakuchikudo.

The last one to three sticks should be left closed. It is essential not to open the fan fully so that you do not “complete” it. The people of old used to think that once you have reached the highest possible state, all you can do is fall. So they deliberately left their fans in an incomplete state, with one to three sticks unopened.

Choose the Pattern Carefully

Folding fans come in a variety of designs.

The pattern on a fan is also an important mode of self-expression for the user. A fan is eye-catching because it moves in front of the user’s face. Be sure to select a design that suits your style, and that will create an impression when you nimbly open up your fan.

Folding fans feature not only traditional Japanese handmade paper or Japanese patterns. They also come in many styles that suit Western clothing or that are unique in design. Feel free to experiment in coordinating your fan with your outfit or the location in which you intend to use it!

One Last Tip: Add a Touch of Elegance With a Delicate Fragrance

Sandalwood fans are famous for their fragrance.

Fans can also be enjoyed for their scent. Scented woods such as sandalwood or Japanese cypress release a delicate fragrance when you fan yourself. We also recommend adding your favorite scent by storing your fan with some incense or spraying it with a little perfume.

Born in France, I've been living in Japan since 2011. I'm curious about everything, and living in Japan has allowed me to expand my vision of the world through a broad range of new activities, experiences, and encounters. As a writer, what I love most is listening to people's personal stories and share them with our readers.