Folding Fans – Kimono Patterns

Sensu (Uchiwa), Fan (Uchiwa), Folding Fans
While fans do not have a specific meaning when used as a pattern on kimonos, the patterns within them, if any, do have meaning. Fans can also be arranged or placed on top of each other to resemble other patterns, such as waves (seigaiha) or butterflies.
Golden folding fan with a red seigaiha print and golden clouds inside, surrounded by flowers and clouds, all on a green background.
There are two types of fans. The first are folding fans (sensu/扇子) and circular non-folding fans (uchiwa/団扇). Folding fans are more complicated to create and can hide quirky and vibrant patterns on display, so they are much more common than non-folding styles.
Spring panoramic view of a bird among flowers inside a folding fan, with circular floral motifs on another folding fan behind.
When it is a simple, flat, semi-circular design, it is known as “jigami/地紙”. This is the name of the paper part of the fan, and its use allows for intricate, seamless patterns on the inside.
Pink plum blossoms on a gray tree, with silver clouds behind them, with a flower scene on another folding fan.
Another name for “folding fan” in Japanese is “suehiro/末広”, which means “folding” or “endless”.
Red and black plum blossoms in the shape of folding fans creating an endlessly repeating pattern.
In Japan’s Heian period (794-1185), aristocrats used a style of folding fan known as a “hiougi/檜扇,” which has a tassel at each end. In addition to the tassels, they have quirky patterns of things like pine trees, cranes, waves, turtles, and plum trees.
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