Mitsubishi Public Affairs Committee

©Jiji Press Photo

Washi, each piece delicately hand-made by craftsmen, is glued to bamboo ribs and then coated with a natural varnish.

The Japanese mizu uchiwa, or gwater fanh, with its film-like transparency, uses a piece of ganpishi, a very thin type of washi, or traditional Japanese paper, coated with a special varnish. There are several theories as to the derivation of the name of the fan. One, from its transparency and the wet-look luster that derives from the use of varnish. Another, that in years gone by the person using the fan would dip it in water to create an additional cooling effect as the water evaporated from its surface. And yet another, from its visual similarity to crystal-clear water. The development of the mizu uchiwa began 1,300 years ago in the river culture of the Mino district, known for its hand-made washi and its abundant bamboo forests. The fans are bedecked with handpainted morning-glories, whitebait, fireflies and other motifs associated with summer.