Translated by MATCHA
A Gentle Breeze To Cool Yourself In Summer: Japanese Fans
One great way to beat the heat of Japanese summers is with your own folding fan, or sensu. Available in practically every color and pattern possible, sensu make great souvenirs of your trip to Japan too!
Written by Yuu Matsunaga
Summer in Japan is hot and humid, and going outside where there are no air conditioners or electric fans is definitely not pleasant. One thing that you might want to have with you at that time is a sensu in order to tolerate the heat.
What’s a Sensu?
A sensu is a hand-held fan made from folding ribs covered in either paper or fabric; you wave it with your hand to create a gentle breeze. While their primary purpose is to help cool you down, sensu can also be a fashion statement. In the past they were an item worn and used by the aristocracy of Japan; this role can still be seen in Japanese traditional performing arts such as Noh theater and the dances performed by maiko and geisha. At Kyosen-do in Ningyocho, Tokyo, you can see a great number of fans on display, all of which are available for purchase.
How to Use a Sensu
Wave your sensu with either hand as in the picture above. Sensu are popular with both men and women, with the larger ones typically being used by men and the smaller by women.
You can fold the sensu shut when you’re not using it. These accordion-like folds make the sensu very compact and easy to carry in a pocket or bag.
Patterns of a Sensu
Sensu come in a myriad of different materials, colors, and patterns. Some of the patterns have meanings to them, so you may want to consider that when purchasing your own folding fan. Some of the common patterns and meanings are: dragonflies (victory), bamboo (vitality), gourd (prosperity and expelling evil), shells (harmony in a relationship), turtles (long life), koi carp (improving your career), and butterflies (grace, elegance).
Another symbolic point to a folding fan is its shape: by getting wider at the end, the sensu also symbolizes becoming successful. This meaning makes it a popular gift for celebrations or when expressing gratitude. And as they come in so many different traditional patterns, they make for excellent souvenirs as well. Why not pick some up for your family and friends?
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Nihonbashi, Ningyocho 2-4-3
Closed: Sundays, holidays, second Saturday of the month (except in June/July)
Nearest Station: Ningyocho Station, Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
Access: 5 minute walk from A1 exit
Website: Online Shop