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Japanese Fans & Accessories

While China and Japan debate the true origins of the handheld fan, it is most commonly believed to have originated in Japan at around 670 to 700 A.D. The Japanese folding fan, called Ogi, is made of paper or silk affixed to a wooden, ivory, or metal skeleton. This skeleton can expand or collapse, hence the “folding fan” name.

Fans, along with other accessories such as hair combs and ornaments, were worn by both men and woman in Japanese society to indicate status. Aristocracy and samurai classes particularly used fans in order to keep cool and even as a writing material. Because of the easily portable form, samurai would write instructions or communicate with one another using folding fans with symbols, colors, or words.

Quick Facts

  • Through Silk Road trade, Europeans were introduced to the Japanese folding fan in the 15th century, which then became a popular decorative art object and accessory
  • Fans were more than just everyday objects for historic Japan, but instead were highly valued and considered suitable gifts for royalty
  • The oldest known surviving Japanese paper folding fan dates back to around the 11th century or 12th century. It was found in the city of Akitsu, Japan

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