Latticework in the half-moon “window”
A single bamboo culm is split into 48 to 64 equal parts to make the ribs, which are then spread apart and woven by strings.
History of Bōshu Uchiwa
Situated in the southern part of Chiba prefecture, Boshu enjoys a warm climate. Thin bamboos with long internodes called medake have long grown in this area, especially around present-day cities of Tateyama and Minami Boso, People started using these medake bamboos to make ribs of round rigid fans called uchiwa in the Meiji period. The ribs were sent to Tokyo to be finished and sold as “Edo uchiwa.” However, after the Great Kanto Earthquake, it became difficult to process fans in Tokyo. The wholesalers moved to Tateyama, and since then, the entire fan-making process has come to be done in this area.

One of the characteristics of Boshu uchiwa is using the culm (trunk) of the thin bamboo as it is for the handle. Of the three major producers of uchiwa in Japan, “Kyo uchiwa” of Kyoto has a wooden handle, and “Marugame uchiwa” of Kagawa has a flat handle. In Boshu, a bamboo is cut so that a node comes about one third of the length from the bottom. The culm above the node is split into 64 equal parts to make the ribs, and the culm below the node is used as the handle. The process of making a single uchiwa involves more than 20 steps that require plenty of time and attention.

In the old local fishing villages, while the fishermen were out to sea, the women looking after their homes took to manual work of fan-making as a source of income. The number of fan-makers grew to about 1000, and Boshu uchiwa soon became a favorite summer gift, selling as many as 8 million fans a year in the early Showa period. However, with changes in people’s lifestyles, uchiwa became less of a necessity, and the production today has decreased to one tenth. In 2003, Boshu uchiwa was officially designated as a Traditional Craft of Japan.

How to Make a Bōshu Uchiwa
Choosing the Bamboo: Thin bamboo called medake that grow on the hills of Boshu become the material for uchiwa. The best bamboo can be found in the coldest days of winter; those which are especially thin and firm are selected and cut.

The culm needs to have a certain thickness to make uchiwa, so only two or three fans can be made from one bamboo.
The skin is peeled, and the culm is polished.

Splitting the bamboo

The bamboo is cut into sticks so that there is a node at one third of the length of the stick from the bottom. A stick is fixed standing up, and the top part of the stick is finely split.

Using a traditional knife, the culm of the bamboo is split into 8 parts, then to 16, to 32, and finally to 64 parts. These become the ribs of the fan.

Weaving Process (Amidake)

The finely split ribs are woven with strings, one by one.

Making the Window

The strings are tied on each side of the “bow” of the uchiwa, then the ribs are spread into a fan-shape. By pulling on the strings, the arch of the bow is adjusted to make a beautiful symmetrical window.

Toasting (Yaki)

The ribs are lightly heated over a stove to straighten the ones that are twisted or bent.

Gluing

The ribs are spread with a thin layer of glue, and the paper with patterns or pictures for the front side of the fan is stuck onto the ribs.

After adjusting the ribs with a spatula to make them evenly spaced out, a white paper is stuck onto the back side of the uchiwa, making sure not to leave any air bubbles.


Cutting

The excessive ends of the ribs are cut off to form a round uchiwa shape.

Making the Rim

A hand-made Japanese paper is cut into thin strips, then glued onto the rim to cover the edges. Finally, the fan is flattened with a roller, so that the straight lines of the ribs stand out clearly, finishing up the Boshu uchiwa.

A contemporary Boshu uchiwa
Boshu uchiwa with patterns which are dyed using paper stencils

A contemporary Boshu uchiwa

A contemporary Boshu uchiwa

A contemporary Boshu uchiwa

A contemporary Boshu uchiwa

Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

資料提供&協力:館山市立博物館、宇山正男(うやま工房)、房州うちわ振興協議会
監修:大古幸枝(館山市立博物館
テキスト:坂井編集企画事務所
編集:坂井基樹(坂井編集企画事務所)
英語サイト翻訳: 鴨志田恵 
英語サイト監修: 鴨志田恵
プロジェクト・ディレクター: 前﨑信也 (京都女子大学 准教授)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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