A survey of a technique to make winnowing fans from Japanese wisteria in the Kizumi area
On January 24, efforts to preserve and pass on a technique to make winnowing fans from Japanese wisteria (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property) were surveyed. This technique has been passed down in the Kizumi area of the City of Sosa, Chiba Prefecture.
Winnowing fans are an essential tool for everyday life since these fans are used to carry items and separate grain from chaff. These fans are also ceremonial implements that are used in festivals and annual events. These fans are thus an essential part of life. Three techniques to make these winnowing fans have currently received national designation as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property (folk technique). One of these techniques is practiced in the Kizumi area of the City of Sosa, where winnowing fans continue to be made using Japanese wisteria and dwarf bamboo. Winnowing fans from the Kizumi area are light, sturdy, and extremely flexible, and these fans were widely used throughout the Kanto region. The heyday for the making of winnowing fans was from the Taisho Period to the mid-1950s, when the Kizumi area and surrounding areas produced 80,000 winnowing fans annually. However, changes in the social climate and the spread of plastic baskets and baskets from China have resulted in a sharp decline in current demand for the winnowing fans.
The Kizumi Society to Preserve the Making of Winnowing Fans was formed to pass on the technique to make winnowing fans in the Kizumi area. Starting in 2010, the Society has conducted a class to pass down the technique and the Society has worked to foster individuals who will continue to pass on the technique. The class is held monthly. Local individuals who wish to pass down the technique act as teachers, and they work tireless to collect materials for the winnowing fans, work those materials, make the fans, and put on demonstration sales at local festivals. Students attending the class vary in age; some wish to start making the winnowing fans after mandatory retirement, some are learning how to make winnowing fans while working bamboo professionally or semi-professionally, and some are local organic farmers. Regardless of who they are, the students are passionate about learning. Some of the students are residents of the Kizumi area while others attend monthly from places such as the Town of Yokoshibahikari and the City of Kamogawa. The class on January 24 had several dozen students who learned about harvesting Japanese wisteria and dwarf bamboo and then treating and working those materials.
The demand for many folk goods has declined sharply due to changes in the social climate and the spread of materials and tools that can be used to mass produce items at a low cost. Circumstances continue to hamper the passing down of folk techniques. If those techniques are no longer needed by society, how will values change? Is there a point to passing down those techniques and if so how? Numerous communities are facing these issues.
The survey found that residents of the Kizumi area have created a place and an atmosphere where people can learn how to make winnowing fans and they have taken in outsiders who are interesting in learning how to make those items. The residents do this as part of their own life’s work, as a hobby, or as practitioners of an art. The survey revealed evidence of a new relationship emerging in which people are no longer forced make winnowing fans as an occupation, as they were in the past. Instead, people have decided themselves that they want to make winnowing fans. As the evidence indicated, this approach may constitute a new model with which to pass down techniques. This approach is possible because values are more diverse today, so people have the option of reexamining traditional culture and seeking to return to a life more in tune with nature.