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JAPANESE TRADITIONAL CRAFTS

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Kyo Uchiwa

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Uchiwa, Japanese style casual fan, is known as one of the attributions of the summer in Japan. However, Kyo Uchiwa is more than that.

The beginning of Kyo Uchiwa dates back to the period of the northern and southern dynasties, from 1336 to 1392. At that time, Japanese pirates called “Wako” ransacked around the Japan Sea and brought various goods from Min (China), then dynasty in China, and Korea, including Korean Uchiwa. Wako brought such goods back to western Japan, where the closest part to the Korean peninsula, and they were transported to the capital of Kyo (Kyoto).

Korean Uchiwa was welcomed by Fukakusa area in Kyoto in particular, where second houses of the aristocrats gathered. Since then, Uchiwa was used not only for cooling but also as a small gear to cover faces and mouths of noble people, and artisans started to add new devices to please the nobles. It was the beginning of Kyo Uchiwa.

The uniqueness of Kyo Uchiwa is seen in its structure. Ordinal Japanese uchiwas are made by putting pieces of paper or clothe on bones which forms the uchiwa shape including the handle part. However, Kyo Uchiwa’s handle part (called “Hashu”) and fan (called “Uchiwa-men”) are made separately. The artisans, therefore, can think out of both Uchiwa-men and Hashu separately and as a result Kyo Uchiwa have developed variety of forms and styles; some Uchiwa-men is decorated by gold leaves, some are formed like a gold fish, and some Hashu are beautifully carved and have fringes.

This characteristic was established in Edo period (1603-1867), and since the capital city was moved to Edo, current Tokyo, citizens started to have Kyo Uchiwas. Japanese painting artists from such as Kano school and Tosa school also added splendidness to Uchiwa-men (called “Gosho Uchiwa”, too).
Modern Kyo Uchiwa is still made by artisans’ hands. Patterns or pictures on Uchiwa-men are hand-drawn or printed, or sometimes carved, and put on the bones forming uchiwa-men shapes. After the edges are carefully trimmed and covered by thin paper, Hashu, which is separately created, is inserted.

The design and use of material is just stunning, and are being developed day by day. Kyo Uchiwa was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1977.


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