Uchiwa and sensu are hand fans that are waved back-and-forth to create an airflow. These fans are usually made of paper or cloth pasted over a handle and ribs made of wood and bamboo. Sensu can be folded up. Uchiwa has a stronger airflow than Sensu.
History of uchiwa fans
The origin of uchiwa fans dates back to the Kofun period (300-592) when a large fan-shaped object called Sashiba was introduced in Japan from China. Sashiba was made of feathers, furs, and leaves. Uchiwa fans in the old days were used as a tool for blocking sunlight, waving insects away, hiding the faces of high-ranking people. After uchiwa fans made of bamboo and washi paper became popular, they were able to create a strong airflow and people started using them as a fan in the Edo period (1603-1868). Uchiwa fans with Ukiyo-e portraying beautiful women called Bijin-ga printed on them also became popular for adding a touch of entertainment. Bijin-ga was very popular at that time.
Uchiwa fans today
Nowadays, uchiwa fans are mainly used as a fan. Various patterns and designs of uchiwa are produced for different purposes, such as those with the faces of celebrities printed on them for fun, and those with product or service images printed on them for advertisement. The handles of uchiwa are usually made of plastic. Various types of handles are available too, such as those covered with leather, and those attached to the fan parts.
History of sensu fans
Sensu fans originated in Japan. The origin of sensu was a wooden fan used at the imperial palace in the Heian period (794-1185) and called Hi-ougi. Hi-ougi were made of slats of cypress wood that were stitched together with thread and secured with a fastener. Since the paper was precious at that time, they were used as a note written down poems and ritual records as well as a ritual tool. Later, sensu fans became popular as a tool at tea ceremonies and traditional performing arts. They were also imported to Europe and were favored by aristocratic women.
Sensu fans today
Nowadays, sensu fans are primarily used as a fan. They are also used as a decoration or a tool for traditional cultural activities and performing arts. Many of them have Japanese-style patterns and colors.
Uchiwa and sensu fans designated as Traditional Crafts of Japan