If you’re suffering from the heat while out and about in the muggy urban streets of Japan this summer the good news is there’s a free way to cool down. During the summer months many companies give out free uchiwa (handheld fans) to heat-frazzled pedestrians and by doing so are able to create a feeling of goodwill and generate plenty of free advertising – free uchiwa are typically emblazoned with the logo of the company in question. It’s also possible to pick up free commemorative uchiwa at certain events (the uchiwa pictured above right was given out at last year’s sumo tournament in Ryogoku).
Uchiwa, which originally came to Japan from China, is made by splitting the top half of a bamboo stalk. The splinters are then splayed out to create a frame for the paper that is then pasted on top. These days frames are typically made from plastic though there are still shops where you can buy the genuine article.
Uchiwa are particularly prominent if you visit local festivals where dashing men and graceful women in yukata typically carry around an uchiwa to keep cool. While many use freebie uchiwa, there are also plenty of people who have rather more stylish store bought versions. Unless you’re buying a bamboo uchiwa, store bought ones are very reasonable and even the ¥100 store stock a nice selection of traditional and modern prints. Click here for a gallery of uchiwa.
This best uchiwa freebie this summer has got to be those given out by summer popsicle brand Gari Gari Kun. These special uchiwa have QR code printed on them that allows you to register via your cell phone for a chance to get free Gari Gari Kun items. Only 500,000 fans are available and it’s reported by J-Cast that they’ll be giving 30,000 out around Shibuya Station on July 24. Grab yourself a free fan while you can.