Lifestyle | Kateigaho International Japan Edition

Ryo: Traditional uchiwa fans say 'summer'

KATEIGAHO INTERNATIONAL JAPAN EDITION

There’s no doubt about it — a colorful yukata (light cotton kimono) accessorized with a flat uchiwa fan says “summer.”

Kagome basket weave Like the open-mesh weave of the bamboo basket on which it is based, the design of this long-handled 'full moon'-type fan is airy and elegant.
Kagome basket weave Like the open-mesh weave of the bamboo basket on which it is based, the design of this long-handled ‘full moon’-type fan is airy and elegant.

As with many traditional Japanese goods, uchiwa differ in their design between Edo and Kyoto. In Kyoto, Kitayama cedar is used; the fans of Edo are made of bamboo.

Kingyo goldfish An endearing mascot of summer, the goldfish on this miniature-sized cotton fan are shown viewed from above, a style of illustration typical of old Edo.
Kingyo goldfish An endearing mascot of summer, the goldfish on this miniature-sized cotton fan are shown viewed from above, a style of illustration typical of old Edo.
Hotaru fireflies Yet another icon of the season, fireflies remind us of lazy evenings spent in the garden. They're a lovely match for the full-moon shape of this dyed-cotton fan.
Hotaru fireflies Yet another icon of the season, fireflies remind us of lazy evenings spent in the garden. They’re a lovely match for the full-moon shape of this dyed-cotton fan.

Also, with Edo-uchiwa the paper or cloth is applied to reveal the underlying frame. Today, only a handful of artisans, working in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, remain who carry on the special craft of handle and frame design.

Takishima waterfall Lively stripes represent the cool, cascading lines of a waterfall in this medium-sized cotton fan. Reminiscent of pinstripes, it's a popular design among men.
Takishima waterfall Lively stripes represent the cool, cascading lines of a waterfall in this medium-sized cotton fan. Reminiscent of pinstripes, it’s a popular design among men.
Ichimatsu checkers Checkered patterns were popularized by kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu, who favored them for his stage wear. Rendered in cotton on the lower half of this Yamato-type fan, this one features the Ibasen crest.
Ichimatsu checkers Checkered patterns were popularized by kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu, who favored them for his stage wear. Rendered in cotton on the lower half of this Yamato-type fan, this one features the Ibasen crest.
Mizutama-chirashi polka dots A colorful scattering of vivid polka dots in varied sizes decorates this Yamato-type fan crafted of washi paper and stencil-dyed in Okinawa bingata style.
Mizutama-chirashi polka dots A colorful scattering of vivid polka dots in varied sizes decorates this Yamato-type fan crafted of washi paper and stencil-dyed in Okinawa bingata style.

True to the spirit of Edo, the motifs are bold and simple, with stripes and grids prevailing. When tucked into the yukata obi sash at a jaunty angle, they complete the season’s cool, carefree look.

Hanabi fireworks A departure from the abstract designs preferred during the Edo Period (1603-1868), objective designs such as this one, dyed on cotton, carry a contemporary feel.
Hanabi fireworks A departure from the abstract designs preferred during the Edo Period (1603-1868), objective designs such as this one, dyed on cotton, carry a contemporary feel.
The fans featured on this page are part of the vast selection of shapes and sizes carried by Ibasen Co., Ltd., purveyors of fine traditional fans in Tokyo's Nihonbashi district since 1590.
The fans featured on this page are part of the vast selection of shapes and sizes carried by Ibasen Co., Ltd., purveyors of fine traditional fans in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district since 1590.

This is the second of a four-part series on ryo that focuses on traditional ways to mitigate the heat of a Japanese summer.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5