We’ve carefully chosen 18 amazing Japanese folding fan, ranging from the traditional to the cutting-edge, from a selection of Kyoto’s Kyo-Sensu, Tokyo’s Edo-Sensu, Aichi’s Nagoya-Sensu, and Shiga’s Omi-Sensu fans, which we will discuss in great detail below. All of these fans are available to purchase online, so pick your favorite one and delight in the elegance of Japanese culture!
What to Look for in Japanese Folding Fans
While all Japanese folding fans are called “sensu,” different regions have their own fan production methods, designs, and characteristics. Let’s look at the main ones to help you find one that tickles your fancy.
As the name suggests, the Kyo-Sensu is made mainly in Kyoto. Only members of the Kyoto Folding Fan & Round Fan Association of Commerce and Industry are allowed to use the name “Kyo-Sensu.”
A larger number of thin bamboo sticks are used to construct the inner frame, with narrow folds between the ribs.
● Feminine Appeal
Fine and delicate structure.
● Production Method
Division of labor.
From processing the bamboo to preparing and attaching the paper, the production of one fan involves numerous steps. There are different craftspeople who specialize in each stage and they all work together to produce high-quality Kyo-Sensu fans. While the fans were originally designed for women, the wide range of designs we see nowadays also appeal to many men as well.
Edo-Sensu fans are characterized by their wide folds and big, bold designs painted on their large surfaces.
Fewer but thicker sticks compared to the Kyo-Sensu.
● Made for Men
Designed for the presentable and sophisticated Edokko (a term used to describe residents of Tokyo who have lived in the city for three or more generations; stereotyped as being stylish, on-the-go, empathetic, and filled with a sense of justice).
● Production Method
Each fan is made entirely by a single craftsperson.
Nagoya and Kyoto are the two largest regions for fan production in Japan. The traditional craft of Nagoya-Sensu is said to have originated with Inoue Kanzo and his son, who moved from Kyoto to modern-day Aichi Prefecture during the Horeki era (1751 – 1764) of the Edo Period.
Designs with darker shades or clear and striking colors.
For celebrations and ceremonies. More common among men.
Nagoya-Sensu fans are characterized by the colors of the paper, which usually feature darker shades or clear and striking colors. In addition, while Kyo-Sensu are mainly used for dancing, tea ceremonies, and other uses popular with women, Nagoya-Sensu are mostly used for celebrations and ceremonies, and are mainly designed for men.
Many of the fans made in other regions use sticks from Shiga (Omi is the old name for the prefecture).
There are only four or five shops that sell Omi-Sensu fans nationwide.
● Fan Sticks
Most of the folding fans in Japan use sticks from Shiga Prefecture.
Takashima Senkotsu fan frames make up 90% of the fan frame market in Japan and are a designated traditional craft of Shiga Prefecture. But while Shiga is most known for its production of fan frames and sticks, there are also some long-established companies that produce the Omi-Sensu fans themselves in the prefecture.
BECOS x tsunagu Japan’s Top 3 Japanese Folding Fan Picks
Unkindo Fukatsu Hand Fan (Tokyo)
Located in the Arakawa ward of Tokyo, Unkindo is a shop specializing in Edo-Sensu fans that was founded 150 years ago. Today, only two or three other shops like it remain in all of Japan. Having inherited techniques used since the late Edo Period (1781 – 1867), this shop is now in the hands of a fifth-generation owner. Unkindo has crafted fans for the Imperial Family as well as generations of kabuki actors, and continues to uphold the tradition and techniques of Edo-Sensu to this day.
Recommended Unkindo Fukatsu Hand Fan #1
Chic and Bright: A Fan with Two Sides
The traditional Edo-Sensu fans at Unkindo Fukatsu Hand Fan delight people with their sounds. Compared to the Kyo-Sensu, Edo-Sensu fans have wider folds, making them more durable and stable. This contributes to the distinct, satisfying “clink” sound the fans make when they are shut. There are few sounds more satisfying than the clink of an Edo-Sensu fan on a blazing summer day.
This fan for men features different colors on both sides. One side has a chic ash pattern, while the other is more of a gentle blue-green. It looks simple at first glance, yet serves well as a sophisticated accessory.
Recommended Unkindo Fukatsu Hand Fan #2
Charming and Calming Purple, The Fan for Any Occasion
A “hiware” pattern covers the entire face of the fan. Depicting ice cracks, “hiware” is a popular pattern to help one cool off in the summer. The soothing purple color of this fan makes it especially recommended for women. It’s easy to accessorize with modern clothes and is great for people who like to walk around with a fan in hand.
Onishi Tsune Shoten (Kyoto)
Founded in 1918, Onishi Tsune Shoten is a long-established Kyoto fan shop renowned for their unique approach of breathing new life into tradition through product lines such as their “Iroha Nihoheto” that fuses fragrances into fans. With a dedication to Kyoto tradition and the “adult chic,” each of the 86 steps involved in the making of an Onishi Tsune fan is divided among specialist craftspeople. Since 2016, the store’s fourth-generation young female owner has also become involved in fan-making herself, and is taking on the challenge of creating entirely new designs with a traditional twist.
Recommended Onishi Tsune Shoten Fan #1
Masculine Fan For Business Occasions
Onishi Tsune Shoten’s mission is “to preserve the craft and beauty of folding fans for the next hundred years.” But while they continue to use traditional crafting methods, they also endeavor to develop new products like the “Iroha Nihoheto” series.
This beautiful Kyo-Sensu men’s fan consists of three layers of thin washi paper. The subdued colors and the intricate design of the folding fan make it ideal for any occasion, including business settings. This is the perfect elegant tool to cool off on a hot and humid summer night.
Recommended Onishi Tsune Shoten Fan #2
Fresh, Modern, and Scented
This unisex fan gives off a gentle, delicate fragrance with every wave, and thanks to its compact size, it hardly takes up any space in the bag. The bright color gradient of the fan was inspired by the hues of nature and the four seasons. Once the fan’s fragrance fades, it can be easily reapplied* so that you can enjoy it for years to come. The fan would also make a great gift for that special someone in your life.
* Additional time and costs will be required for shipping fragrances outside Japan.
Yasuto Yonehara (Kyoto)
The cutting-edge “Yasuto Yonehara” brand was created in 2016 with the aim of expressing Japanese identity and preserving traditional fan-making techniques. The unique aesthetic sense of Japanese people is captured in these fans with the use of “haku” (metal foil, most often referring to gold leaf), giving it a traditional yet modern air. Crafted to be fashion statements, these fans have great potential to remain relevant for generations to come.
Recommended Yasuto Yonehara Fan #1
Gold Leaf on White
Yonehara Yasuto started working for the traditional craftsman Shinji Yonehara in 2009, doing hakuoshi (the process of gluing the front and back of the fan together) on Kyo-Sensu fans. Later, he started to develop his own products in order to express Japanese devotion and virtues that have been handed down through the generations and imbue them with a touch of modernity through fans and foil.
The design of this Kyo-Sensu fan was inspired by the brilliance of the Milky Way. The moment you open it, you’re treated to a subtle Japanese fragrance, which works well with the ephemeral and melancholic Japanese beauty of the radiant gold leaf. The glimmer of the foil gives the fan an air of luxury, making it the perfect accessory to add a touch of sophistication to your wardrobe.
Recommended Yasuto Yonehara Fan #2
A Beautiful Fan with Elegant Turquoise Coloring
This is the perfect fan to add a touch of sophistication to your everyday look. You can instantly tell that this luxurious item was made with a lot of time and care. The shape of this refreshing turquoise Kyo-Sensu fan is rather unique, implementing ideas seen in the silk fans developed in France, and is the work of the long-established Kyo-Sensu maker Miyawaki Baisenan. Widely shaped fans are considered lucky charms, which makes this fan an ideal gift.
Top 6 Japanese Folding Fans
Featuring Kanazawa Gold Leaf
Hakuichi is a folding fan brand established in 1975. Some of their most popular folding fans are those featuring the luxurious Kanazawa gold leaf, a traditional craft of Ishikawa Prefecture. All the gold leaf is inlaid by hand, creating unique, one-of-a-kind patterns.
A Story Woven in Gold Leaf
The Ephemeral Galaxy
Hakuichi has transformed the Kanazawa gold leaf, taking it from a material only used for fine arts and introducing it to the world in the form of more personal Kanazawa gold leaf crafts. Firm in the belief that “doing things by hand is the secret to the beauty of traditional crafts,” the brand is dedicated to the preservation of handcrafting techniques despite developments in technology.
This fan adorned with a galaxy pattern is the perfect combination of traditional artistry and modern design. The way that the gold leaf looks and naturally cracks brings to mind the Milky Way glistening in the night sky and the cosmos stretching beyond it for hundreds of millions of light years. This beautiful fan will make you want to gaze into it till the end of time.
Elevating the Fan with Gold Leaf
An Elegant Mix of Kanazawa Gold Leaf and Subdued Colors
This fan radiates elegance with its gold leaf set against a soft color base, giving it a glamorous yet mature look. The coloring is meant to invoke images of the sky when the moon is still faintly shining at daybreak, adding an elegant touch to the abstract design. Suitable for both men and women of all ages, this fan makes a fantastic gift.
The Kaga Yuzen Tradition at Work
Some no Shiki (Ishikawa)
“Some no Shiki” is a creative brand utilizing the 500-year-old tradition of Kaga Yuzen dyeing (Kaga is the old name of modern-day Ishikawa Prefecture where gorgeous and luxurious kimono fabrics are produced). Other than kimono, they also create new products using Kaga Yuzen techniques to help people experience the changing of the seasons. Their finely-made folding fans are especially popular due to their brilliance in capturing the “gentle movements of nature” in our daily lives.
Using Kaga Yuzen For Folding Fans
The Full Moon and the Owl
Deviating from traditional Kaga Yuzen methods, all of the steps in making Some no Shiki fans are done by one craftsperson. The brand relies on the raw skills of its artisans to create an array of products, among them elegant fans that also work great as interior decoration.
This beautiful and practical hand-dyed Kaga Yuzen fan is a great example of such a product. The design of the owl and the moon depicts the changing of the seasons, invoking images of going out on the balcony in late summer and sensing the approaching autumn in the air.
Using Kaga Yuzen For Folding Fans
Soft, Ambient Gradation
Some no Shiki fans are created using a color gradation technique unique to Kaga Yuzen. The artisans who produce them are veterans who have been working with Kaga Yuzen for over 40 years, and they use the gradation effect to capture the subtle transitions of Japan’s nature in each fan.
This beautifully-colored item is suitable for both men and women, with the elegant look and the soft colors typical of Kaga Yuzen invoking the images of spring in Japan. The gradation of the fan’s surface is contrasted by the subdued color of the fan sticks, bringing the entire product together.
Traditional Stores Committed to Kyo-Sensu
Miyawaki Baisenan (Kyoto)
Miyawaki Baisenan is a specialized folding fan shop established in 1823 during the Edo Period. For close to 200 years now, they have been offering a wide selection of fans including decorative fans, dancing fans, and summer fans. The shop is also very popular with tourists because of its elegant Kyoto-style appearance. Miyawaki Baisenan actively collaborates with other famous brands, creating many stylish fans that go well with both yukata and modern clothes.
A Fashionable Fan
Miyawaki Baisenan employs experienced craftspeople to keep traditional Japanese fan-making alive, which is becoming increasingly difficult every year since the process takes over 20 steps to complete. That’s perhaps one reason why Miyawaki Baisenan has collaborated with RAKUKEI, a Kyoto-based craftsmanship brand, to create this product.
This fan was designed by Asao Tokoro, the designer of the Tokyo 2020 emblem. While the pattern is rather traditional, it also has a modern and chic feel to it, making it a fashionable accessory for all genders.
Traditional Stores Committed to Kyo-Sensu
Capturing the Atmosphere of Kyoto
Miyawaki Baisenan has a reputation for crafting fans that are the perfect mix of artistry and practicality, making them both convenient and pleasant to the touch. Their collaborative brand RAKUKEI was launched in 2014 with the concept of “making life just right, and just a little better.” With a focus on leather processing, RAKUKEI pursues crafts that can be implemented in everyday life.
This Miyawaki Baisenan Kyo-Sensu fan is part of the “Rakushiki” series, whose coloring is meant to evoke memories and stories of Kyoto’s cityscape. All the folds are lacquered to make them more durable and beautiful. Take a moment to admire the colors, which glimmer with a sense of pride in their calmness.
Traditional Store, New Techniques
Yamani is a Kyo-Sensu fan brand established 300 years ago, renowned not only for its traditional techniques but also for its ability to develop new products. Among them is the “Pocket Fan,” a compact and retractable item that fits easily into any breast pocket, perfectly showcasing the brand’s crafting expertise.
Embodying the Elegance of History and Experience
Cute Yet Mature: Ladies Cloth Folding Fan “Hana-Tsubaki”
Yamani offers a wide range of fans at affordable prices, which are perfect for beginners. From traditional patterns to modern designs, you can find a Yamani fan to match any outfit. This lovely round fan with camellias comes in two colors. The red and white scheme of the flowers is emphasized by the colors of the leaves, which transform the fan into a welcome addition to any ensemble. This design is great even for those who aren’t used to carrying fans. The item comes with a pouch for easy carrying.
A Folding Fan Brand With 1,200 Years of History
Maisendo’s motto is “to carry on the Kyoto aesthetic for the next one thousand years.” Throughout its 1,200-year-long history, the company has managed to give shape and form to the delicate aesthetic woven into Kyoto’s beautiful four seasons. It has three physical stores in the city: one in Gion, one in Kiyomizu, and one at Nishiki Market. They are all located in touristy areas, making it easy to check them out during your trip.
Designs Refined With Time
Furinkazan: Finding Beauty in the Edges
Maisendo is renowned for using classical patterns in their designs, which require a lot of experience and skill, demonstrating the pride and strength of this long-established company. With simple designs and the absence of any frivolity, their fans are made to remain timeless.
Maisendo’s paper fans come in three classical patterns and are masterpieces of austere colors that accentuate their margins. The lustrous pearl surface of the fans’ leaf makes them feel sophisticated and masculine, and because each design has its own unique meaning, these items make perfect gifts.
Designs Refined With Time
Evoking Dignified Femininity
Maisendo’s most popular fans include the “Natsu Gasumi” and the “Miyabi-iro.” Both products are defined by their elegant Kyoto-inspired tones, bringing a sense of coolness and elegance to the user. With their traditional craftsmanship and sophisticated designs, these fans suit a wide range of ages.
This particular indigo-colored fan features a design hand-painted by a fan illustrator depicting the cherry blossom and nadeshiko carnation. It adds chicness and elegance to the item, giving it a sense of feminine dignity. The deep, eye-catching indigo brings it all together into one mesmerizing fan.
Popular Japanese Designs From Traditional Fan Makers
Nishikawa Shoroku Shoten (Shiga)
Nishikawa Shoroku Shoten was founded in 1585 in Omi Hachiman, in what is now Shiga Prefecture. With folding fans as its main product, this store offers a wide range of unique brands and items. Because their designs embody the warm spirit of Japanese culture, Nishikawa Shoroku Shoten’s fans are also very popular with foreigners.
Tradition Is Its Reputation
Nishikawa Shoroku Shoten offers a wide range of cloth fans which are actually very durable. The shop is located in the Nishikawa Shoroku residence, which used to be a merchant’s house that’s been preserved and repurposed, and is now a cultural property designated by the prefecture.
This is a high-quality paper fan with a three-color gradation. A product of Shiga, where most of Japan’s fan sticks come from, the sticks of this fan are dyed to create better color shading. The edge of the fan is painted with a thin line in a matching tone, to give it a trimmer look.
Buy Your Own Japanese Folding Fan!
Many of the fans we’ve introduced in this article, including those from long-established shops, can be purchased online. When shopping on the internet, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices, so we hope that this guide will help you find a fan that’s best suited to you.
Fans are often a bit stiff and difficult to open at the beginning. But the more you use them, the easier they become to open and close. Find one that you feel you can use all the time, and enjoy the sophistication and elegance of Japanese culture!
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*These products may not be able to be shipped to certain countries. Please see the retailer’s website for more information.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.