Timeless Cool

Sensu folding fan

Folding fans, or sensu, were invented in Japan some 1300 years ago. Air conditioners have been unable to defeat them. On the contrary, modern Japanese artists and designers gratefully embrace these elegant suppliers of cool.

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Department stores are filled with them. On the streets they are everywhere. The symbol of fanning away the Summer heat is a much loved accessory in Japan. They are available in a wide variety of colors, styles and designs.

Traditionally given as a gift of respect, the sensu is the ultimate accessory to fan away Japan’s dreaded humidity. After thirteen centuries, it still holds a place in Japanese fashion and aesthetics. From traditional silks to contemporary paper, these days there are folding fans to match all looks.

Traditional Sensu
Traditional Sensu – still make great gifts.

The variety of folding fans available in Japan is mind boggling, particularly now that it is Summer. Sensu may be linked to the traditional arts but modern day artists and designers have made sure that there are styles to match every outfit.

Eshimasa Sensu
Street Art Meets Tradition – a contemporary splash on a traditional accessory.

The BG Skull Head Fan by Eshimasa splashes hardcore art onto Japanese tradition. This finely crafted Japanese paper fan features an original free hand painting. A unique and contemporary Japanese fashion accessory, perfect for hot summer nights.

Japanese Collaboration Sensu
Design and tradition – old meets new.

A group of graphic designers have recently teamed up with traditional sensu makers from Kyoto to craft a range of folding fans that bring hints of old Japan and blends them with contemporary graphics. The range is known as the Japanese Fan Sensu Project created by IDEA X CEMENT.

tarot fan
Away from Tradition – a new look fan.

Is it a fan or is it a deck of cards? A new take on the traditional style. The Tarot Fan is an example of how designers have taken the simple paper or silk on bamboo design and used unrelated products to reproduce the design.

Hello Kitty Fan
Kawaii Fans – Hello Kitty fans away the Summer heat.

Of course there is very little that has not been touched by the kawaii paws of Kitty Chan, so it is makes sense—pun intended—that there are Hello Kitty sensu in every color and design.

Add some sensu style to your look for a contemporary twist on a traditional accessory.

Look for sensu in the JAPANESE STREETS online store.

Deanne Tonking & Masao Tamaoki About the Author

Deanne Tonking and Masao Tamaoki connect with independent designers all over Japan to find unique art, handmade treasures and innovative design. They share their stylish discoveries on TokyoMade, offering style conscious shoppers rarely attainable creations.

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Comment (日本語もOK)

haha the cards one is cute ^^ so is the hello kitty one ;3
i love folding fans, they make you look classic ^^

Aug 19, 2009 (4850 days ago)

I agree Jini, there is something sleek about sporting a sensu and it is not just because it keeps you cool!

Deanne Tonking (author)
Aug 20, 2009 (4848 days ago)

i love senshu! haha

Aug 22, 2009 (4847 days ago)

A close friend of mine went to Japan and got one for me, and they’re really delicate. I LOVE the hello kitty one, especially the dangling strawberry heart.

Aug 25, 2009 (4843 days ago)

Oh, I love the modern teal one. very chic

Apr 26, 2013 (3503 days ago)

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