Sensu, a Japanese Cooling Idea

Sensu is a traditional Japanese fan that can be folded up compactly and when you want to cool off, it can be opened and used easily. Regardless of gender or age, it is widely used. One of the main features that makes these famous is the cool drawings on the fan when it’s open. Sensu not only makes you feel cool, looks cool too.

A History of More Than 1000 Years

The beginning of these folding fans traces back about 1200 years ago when the first wooden fans were made of a wood and called Hiougi. As the usage of paper became more common, it began to be pasted onto the frame and became Sensu, the fan that we use nowadays. In the 17th century, the Japanese fan’s popularity spread to Europe generating new kinds such as the Evantail, a fan with feathers and silk that became popular among female lords of France Louis’ royal house.

In Pursuit of Elegance with Quality


All traditional Sensu are crafted by the hands of artisans. In total, there are about 80 steps to creating a fan but, in general, the most important parts are creating the frame and painting. The frame is typically made of bamboo, and the number of stems can range anywhere from 10 thick ones to 30 depending on the area. The craftsmen work to make each stem equal in size. Then, they fasten the feet of the fan for optimum strength with a stopper called Kaname. A finished fan is durable and easy to open and close. They then paste wavy paper onto the framework. Each fold becomes the feathers of the Sensu, and when it’s used it creates swirling vortices in the air. This makes it possible to efficiently create wind with minimal effort. Upon the surface of the paper is where each craftsman can be creative by drawing and painting.

While imagining the fan when it is creased, the artist delicately draws the visual onto the paper to complete it. Sometimes the use of things like gold or silver leaves, or prints are placed on the fan. There are not so many craftsmen that can create these fans of the upmost quality, meaning it is one of the traditional Japanese crafts where the artisan’s skill truly shines through.

Sensu Application for Traditional Performance Art




Since ancient times, the fan hasn’t only been used for cooling oneself but used to express intentions or emotions without words such as keeping tempo in music, or beckoning a person. The fan is a cornerstone of the Japanese traditional arts such as Kabuki and Noh. Kabuki, for example, uses Sensu as well as costumes in accordance with the story. The fan’s colorful design makes the performance even more brilliant. When closed, the fan has a sleek beauty, but when opened you can enjoy the elegant designs. One could say Japan has an uncompromising spirit when it comes to enjoying a cool breeze.