Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Uchiwa Fans

Walking the streets of Tokyo or other large city on a humid Japanese summer day you are often presented with  small uchiwa fans advertising local businesses.  Promotional uchiwa are not a new trend. They were a popular advertising medium in  the Taisho period (1912-26) and possibly long before that.  The fans below  probably date from that period. I don't collect fans but I kept the first two because of the textile designs. The third one belongs to my son Hikaru who is a train enthusiast.

This first one is from  Yajima's general store in present day Kofu.  The woman is wearing what appears to be an Arimatsu shibori yukata with a stunning plover design:

On the reverse side the old phone advertises a two digit phone number and tells us that the shop sells such things  as cosmetics,  school requirements, 'zakka'  general goods,  small items for the home, Western goods etc.
The next uchiwa is advertising a kimono/clothing shop.  The woman on the front seems to be holding her own uchiwa with a sun design that reflects the design on the actual uchiwa. The other items are bolts of kimono fabric. They are beautifully presented held together with red thread. I still often get bolts of  old  kimono or lining silk presented like this.
The design on the reverse features paper tags typically used for labelling kimono fabrics and a pair of 'hasami' scissors . I'm not sure what the needle like thing  attached to the hasami is.
This final uchiwa is advertising a food shop with items listed including sweets, oil, 'natto' fermented soy beans, sugar etc.




  1. Thank you for such an interesting post. I had not known about the uchiwa fans. Such beautiful images. I especially like the hasami scissors and paper tags as I have a piece of fabric with one of those tags. Actually I keep every little Japanese paper thing I come across! My scissors are black all over and a slightly different shape and I wouldn't be without them for my Japanese sewing. Maybe I got them from you, I can't remember!
    Always something to learn on your posts!
    Cheers, Claudia

  2. Thanks Claudia. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I love the little paper tags as well - I haven't kept that many but I may post about fabric labels and tags in future.

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