Traditional Crafts in Kyoto ~Kyo Sensu, Kyo Uchiwa~

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There are variety of goods in Kyoto, such as Nishijin Textiles, Kyo Yuzen, Kyo Komon, Kyo Sensu, and Kyo Uchiwa, which are Traditional Craft Products Designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. This article highlights Kyo Sensu (the folding fans) and Kyo Uchiwa (the flat fans).

The History of Kyo Sensu and Kyo Uchiwa

Kyo Sensu and Kyo Uchiwa were created in Kyoto, an old capital city of Japan which is over one thousand years old, and were developed in the city’s rich climate and culture. While being closely incorporated into people’s life in each era, fresh originality and ingenuity are still being added to the products in present day, producing beauty with fineness and dainty that cannot be found in any other local regions.

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Kyo Sensu is believed to have its root in Hi Ougi (hinoki fans), made by stacking and bounding thin slats of Japanese cypress hinoki wood called “Mokkan.” The oldest hinoki fans were found in the arms of the Buddha statue in Touji Temple of which record shows was made in 877. Later the “Kami Ougi”, the fans made of paper and bamboo were created and they were developed to the current style through generations, producing various kinds of Kyo Sensu for different occasions such as for the use at the royal court of Japan, for Noh performance, for Kyogen performance, for dance performance, for tea ceremony, or for incense ceremony.  In the 13th century folding fans were used not only in Japan but were also exported to China, then migrated to Europe by way of India, adding colorful elegance to the Bourbon dynasty. Later the fans were re-imported to Japan to create “Kinu Sen,” the fans made of silk. Kyoto is said more or less accounts for 85% in Sensu production, followed by Nagoya (10%), and Tokyo and Osaka (5%).

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Kyo Uchiwa is related to Chosen Uchiwa (Korean fans) which is supported by many bamboo stalks between the papers and has “Sashie” structure that is the head (main body) and the handle are made separately. Kyo Uchiwa is also called as “Miyako Uchiwa (Uchiwa of old capital city)” with extremely elegant drawings and was also used at the royal court of Japan. Later it spread widely among ordinary people and is highly appreciated not only as a tool to get some cool breeze but also because of its elegance.

Kyo Uchiwa, Marugame Uchiwa (Kagawa prefecture) and Boshu Uchiwa (Chiba prefecture) are considered as Japan’s three prominent Uchiwas, and it is said that Marugame Uchiwa has a market share of 70% to 80%, while Kyo Uchiwa and Boshu Uchiwa’s market share are 10% to 20% and 10% respectively.

How to Make Kyo Sensu

A Kyo Sensu will be completed through the following process:

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Firstly, the Senkotsu (fan’s blades) process (the process consists of sub-process called Dogiri (cut horizontally), Waridake (split bamboo), Senbiki (draw lines), Memomi, Atetsuke (remarks), Shiraboshi (dry), Migaki (polish), Kanameuchi, and suesuki (end shaving)); secondly, Jigami (paper) process (Awase (put together), Kanso (dry), Saidan (cut cloth));  Kashoku (Hakuosi (cover with gold or silver leaf), Uwae (overglaze) <tegaki (handwritten)>, Mokuhanngazuri (block printed)); thirdly, Orikako (folding process) (Ori (fold), Nakazashi, Mangiri, Nakatsuke, Manrikigake, Oyaate). However, Kyo Sensu is facing the problem in cultivating successors since the artisans for each process are aging but there are not many successors.

Sensu can be categorized to different types: From left Hi Ougi, Kawahori Ougi, Kinu Sen,

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Byakudan Sen, Noh Ougi, Mai Ougi,

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Chaseki Sen, Shugi Sen, and Yusoku Sen.

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Uchiwa can be categorized to, from left, Hirae Uchiwa, Marutake-e Uchiwa, and Kyo Uchiwa.9

“Kyo Sensu” and “Kyo Uchiwa” are registered trademarks (Regionally Based Collective Trademark System) belonging to the Kyoto Sensu Uchiwa Commercial and Industrial Cooperative Association and the names cannot be used other than by the member of the association.

The paper, bamboo and structure are all produced in Kyoto and its neighboring areas and the design of the products are mostly elaborated, featuring its gorgeousness. Kyo Uchiwa is featured by its Sashie structure.

Presently, even though the demand for Kyo Sensu and Kyo Uchiwa is smaller comparing to its peak, they still have unshakable value in light of fine arts and crafts as well as in decorative aspects. Sensu and Uchiwa have been very popular as gift in summer time since before. The products received special orders from life and non-life insurance companies. Recently, production in China and in other areas have become available and some are being sold not through the traditional industry group but through trading companies, which causes less order to the traditional industry group. Currently, the number of membership of the Kyoto Sensu Uchiwa Commercial and Industrial Cooperative Association is 83, and it is said that it used to have 200 members at its peak in 1965-1975. Furthermore, the separated production processes is making it difficult for each artisan to show his/her uniqueness and not many people are willing to succeed the artisanship. That pushes some whole sellers to start handling whole production process on them own. Therefore, cultivation of craftsman has been a big challenge. The industry members need to work together from now on to improve any aspect promptly when it needs to be improved and inherit any aspect when it needs to be preserved. The industry is also ready to cultivate craftsman and preserve the traditional crafts by cooperating with the government.

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One thought on “Traditional Crafts in Kyoto ~Kyo Sensu, Kyo Uchiwa~

  1. Pingback: Yuzen Dyeing – a video | Bunka Gakuen University - Graduate School

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