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The Japanese Fan – A Functional Accessory

On the streets of Tokyo it’s not uncommon to see people of all ages fanning themselves during the hot summer months. Men, women and children have used fans for centuries as a way to stave of the heat and humidity and one company has been crafting these highly functional, and beautiful, Japanese accessories for over 400 years.

Ibasen started business in 1590 and still operates today in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo. At first Ibasen mostly dealt in washi (Japanese paper) and bamboo goods but in the late Edo period the company started making and selling uchiwa(fan), sensu (folding fans) and ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints).

The quality of a sensu can be measured by the symmetry and flatness of the kami (paper) utilized, the quality of the hone (bone, usually a special type of bamboo), the space between the ten (top of the fan) and the nakabone (ribs), and the tightness of the kaname (pivot point).

Today craftsmen and women continue the tradition of fan making and offer their wares to the public at the Ibasen store, located a short walk from the Mitsukoshi-mae Metro station (look for the green arrow on this map and take the A4 exit located in lower left quadrant). The store is open 10-6 on weekdays, closed on weekends and holidays.

Image Credit: Personal Collection

Tags: Fans, Ibasen, Japan, Mistukoshi-mae, Nihonbashi, sensu, The Tokyo Traveler, Tokyo, Tokyo Travel Guide, Tokyo Travel Tips, Tokyo Visitors Guide, Travel, ukiyo-e, ushiwa, woodblock prints

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