Fan Dance Day is on April 3. Japanese Fan Dancing is an ancient tradition that dates back to 600 B.C. This practice was initially used to keep the aristocracy cool. Over time, the majestic dance evolved into a tool for storytelling and entertainment. The dances are characterized by brightly colored kimonos and handheld fans, bold makeup, graceful movements, and sweeping gestures. Performances usually have live traditional music and are enjoyed by people from all over the world. Fan dancing isn’t just dance— it tells a story through slow, deliberate poses and movements. Fan Dance Day was created to celebrate this art form and its rich tradition.
History of Fan Dance Day
The earliest record of fan dancing in Japan dates back to the reign of Emperor Jimmu. Fan Dancing was an honor reserved for the nobility and was hardly ever performed outside the royal court. This popular dance morphed over the centuries and became essential to celebrations such as marriage ceremonies and coronations. In ancient times, fans were used as indicators of one’s social status. The use of ‘hinoku’ (Japanese cypress) to decorate fans was regulated according to the social rank of the owner. In some instances, Japanese craftsmen made fans from sandalwood, ivory, and mother-of-pearl for those in high society. These days, Japanese fans represent friendship or loyalty and are exchanged as signs of good fortune.
Traditional Japanese fans are made from paper, feathers, or cloth. These days, most fans are made from paper and are hand-painted and folded. All fans have a paper pivot attachment that makes the fan easily openable with just a wrist flick. The attachment also allows the user to fold and twirl the fan as they dance.
Traditional fan dancing continues in Japan in modern times. It is now accessible to everyone, not just those in power. Hand-painted paper fans, live music, and the playing of a shamisen (a three-stringed instrument) continue to be the key features of the performances. Fan dances are also performed to Western audiences without traditional elements. Instead, the movements are faster with more intense choreography. The dances are done to recorded music rather than live performances.
Fan Dance Day timeline
Japanese traditional dance is created by fusing Chinese, Korean, and Japanese music and artistic expression.
Women are banned from Kabuki, a form of fan dancing, as the government is concerned about women dancing wildly in public.
Arthur Golden publishes the novel "Memoirs of a Geisha," which discusses fan dancing at length.
John Muir Middle School sets the world record for the largest Japanese fan dance, with 1,392 students and faculty participating.
Fan Dance Day FAQs
What is the traditional name for Japanese fan dance?
‘Jinta Mai’ is the Japanese name for fan dancing.
What is the hashtag for Fan Dance Day?
The social media hashtag for this holiday is #FanDanceDay.
Where else can I see fan dances?
To see more fan dancing, you can attend the Bon Odori; a folk festival celebrated in Japan in May.
Fan Dance Day Activities
Attend a fan dance show
Have some fun by going to see a performance of fan dancing. You'll have a great time in the traditional or modernized form.
Take a fan dance class
Numerous places offer fan dance classes, even for children. Bring the kids along for some quality time to make it even more enjoyable.
Dive into YouTube
If you can't make it to a show or class, YouTube has loads of fan dancing videos. These videos also help you learn the dance form and allow you to mark the celebrations right at home.
5 Interesting Facts About Fans
Fans as props
Fans are an extension of the dancer's body and transform into different objects such as a leaf or convey intangible aspects of the dance such as atmosphere or emotion.
A rite of passage
Learning fan dance was a requirement for a woman to become a geisha.
Different types of fans
Pleated fans called ‘Sensu’ used in the dance are sturdier and more decorated than those used for cooling off in hot weather.
An outsider let in
In 2017, Gankyo Nakamura became the first non-Japanese citizen allowed to participate in Kabuki fan dance in Japan.
Three essential elements
Fan dancing uses three key elements: time, body, and space; Time refers to the dancers moving slowly in sync with the music; body means the dancers form organic and geometric shapes with the fans, and space refers to the vertical movement on stage.
Why We Love Fan Dance Day
You're sure to have fun whether you're watching or participating in a Japanese fan dance. This vibrant art form is a delight for all.
It's steeped in history
Fan dancing goes back thousands of years. This day helps us learn about the practice's origins and some Japanese history.
A family-friendly event
People of all ages can enjoy fan dancing. We can take the entire family for a day out for fun.
Fan Dance Day dates