Kumamoto: Fans Bring Breeze in Elegant Way

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Artisans make shibu uchiwa fans at Kurikawa Shoten in Yamaga, Kumamoto Prefecture.

YAMAGA, Kumamoto — Uchiwa fans made of Japanese washi paper are just one traditional Japanese item that brings coolness in summer. The surface of shibu uchiwa fans are coated with persimmon tannin and are particularly popular. They are made in the Kutami district of Yamaga, Kumamoto Prefecture.

Fermented for three to five years, the persimmon tannin makes the paper more durable and insect-resistant. Uchiwa made in this way are a traditional craft that has been handed down in the district for about 400 years.

At Kurikawa Shoten, artisans craft uchiwa by hand and complete 150 to 200 fans a day. This year, the company released a new uchiwa design depicting women clad in yukata, a type of cotton kimono, dancing elegantly and wearing a metal lantern on their head. The design is based on the theme of the city’s summer festival.

“We want to keep the traditional techniques while incorporating designs that match the times,” said Kyohei Kurikawa, 32, the fifth-generation head of the company.