Fans have a long history in Japan, and legend has it that Japan is the home of the modern folding fan.
The earliest evidence of the fan in Japan was discovered in the wall paintings of a 6th century AD burial mound in Fukuoka. These were discovered in the 6th century AD in Fukuoka. These depicted the ceremonial fan in the Chinese style.
Chinese influence was very strong in Japan during this period and the fans were obviously modelled on Han Dynasty fans in China.
Early Japanese fans came in two types, the tuan shan "round fan" and the bian mian "umbrella fan".
The latter was a rigid fan that could be held comfortably in the hand. It was traditionally made of feathers or silk stretched over a round or oval frame.
The ceremonial fan differed essentially in that it was larger, mounted on a long pole and used by those accompanying the ceremonial retinue of high officials at important functions or processions.
In Japan, the fan became an indispensable object of daily use in the hot summer months in all social classes in the Edo period at the latest, if not long before.
While in the West social convention dictated that the fan was used almost exclusively by women, in Japan both men and women used it.
The poor made use of cheap and simple rigid fans made of bamboo, while those with greater purchasing power bought more sophisticated folding fans that were mass-produced, individually painted or, rarely, specially commissioned.
Apart from the cheapest type of fan, the decorated rigid fan was used almost exclusively by women, while men tended to prefer the folding fan.
It was also common for men to use fans that were dark and restrained, some even plain white or undecorated - conventions and habits that have survived in Japan to this day.