Sensu (a folding fan)

Sensu (folding fan) is an essential and most common prop for performers in kabuki dance. A fan is often used in Suodori , in which costumes, sets and scenery as well as props are simplified, and here plays an important role.

Kabuki fan
GloPAD record1003973

In the typical fan for Kabuki Buyō, 10 bamboo or wooden slats are held together and keyed by a pivot at a lower end of a fan. The two outer slats are called oya-bone (parent slats) and the eight inner slats are called ko-bone (child slats). The slats are covered with jiami (a type of Japanese paper). Lead weight is implanted in the outer slat, close to the pivot, in order to toss or spin the fan.

In general, there are men’s fans and women’s fans. Men’s fans are 30cm (about 1 foot) long and 3 cm shorter than Noh fans, while women’s fans are generally 29cm long, although the length may vary based on the performer’s body frame or preferences .

Fans used by men and women include Mai-ōgi, the most commonly used type, Chūkei, used by noble characters and often seen in Sambasō, including a six slat rokkotsu and a five string hanging hi-ōgi. Gunsen is a fan that is used by warriors, such as the black fan with a rising sun that is often used in Tadanobu. Onna-ōgi is a plain fan with a gold front and silver back, and is used by women such as Hanako in Musume Dōjōji and Shizuka Gozen in Yoshinoyama.

Some of the fan techniques are Kaname gaeshi, Yama-goe, Zarari-biraki, Ikken-biraki and Waki-chirashi.

Mitate is a technique to express various objects or natural phenomenon by using props. Among these props, it’s hardly an overstatement to say that a fan can express everything. For example, a closed fan can be used to express a pipe or a sword, and an open fan can be used to express wind, waves or snow by making it flutter.

Watch the following videos to see how the fan is used in performance.

Bandō Kotoji uses the fan to suggest waves in Tadanobu
GloPAD record 1007241

Bandō Kotoji uses the fan as a sword in Tadanobu
GloPAD record 1007240

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