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Fans Made of Plaster-coated Washi Attracting Attention

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sensu fans coated with plaster are thought to have antibacterial effects.

FUKUI — Sensu traditional Japanese fans made of Echizen washi are attracting attention after Fukui Gov. Tatsuji Sugimoto recommended using fans as a measure to prevent airborne droplets from spreading during wining and dining meetings.

Last month, the governor urged people to use this kind of fan to cover their mouths when dining, after pulling off their face masks.

Echizen washi is a kind of traditional Japanese paper that is a local specialty product of Fukui Prefecture.

The fans made of Echizen washi are coated with plaster, which is long thought to have positive effects to remove odors and germs.

The city government of Echizen, Fukui Prefecture, along with the Echizen Washi Industrial Cooperative plan to demonstrate products such as sensu fans for preventative measures against the novel coronavirus.

At a press conference in mid-November, Sugimoto said, “I want people to take measures, such as covering their mouths, after finishing eating during wining and dining meetings.” He himself used a fan and covered his mouth, calling for measures to prevent airborne droplets from spreading.

This kind of washi coated with plaster was jointly developed by two washi makers in Echizen — Obata Seishisho and Shimizu Shiko — which took into account plaster’s understood effects on removing odors and antibacterial properties. The product was initially developed as wall paper.

In 2017, the plaster-coated washi paper was released under the brand name Ginsetsu. In 2018, the companies began selling sensu fans made with the washi, accompanied by the catchphrase “sensu cleaning the air around you.”

In the wake of the governor’s remark, attention toward the fans rose as a product to prevent airborne droplets from spreading. Thus the Echizen city government and the cooperative began tactical demonstrations of the products, dubbing them “anti-virus sensu.”

On Nov. 20, a campaign in which visitors watched and experienced the production of washi was held in the Echizen Washi Village. Officials of the facility presented the anti-virus sensu fans to a total of 14 students and teachers of Tokyo Gakugei University.

A second-year female student among them said, “It’s enjoyable to do an infection prevention measure with a cute product like this.”

The Echizen fans are sold for ¥2,500, plus tax, in such places as the Papyrus House inside the Echizen Washi Village.