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History of the Export of Japanese Folding Fan and Ishizumi & Co.

From the Meiji period (1868-1912) to the Taisho period (1912-1926), Kisaburo Ishizumi I was the central figure instrumental in the business of folding fans and their export. Kyoto was renowned for its Japanese folding fans from the end of the Edo period through to the Meiji and Taisho period, and at this time Kyoto reached a golden age of prosperity. The fan was particularly treasured in European society by high class society woman as a "must have" accessory. Fan were exported from Kyoto to Europe and were an integral component of Japanese trade during those years.

In 1892 ( Meiji 25th Year ), the Kyoto Prefectural Governor named several industries such as; Kyoto Nishijin Brocade Manufacturing Industry, Tango Crepe Industry, Kyoto Dying Industry, Kyoto Awata Ceramics Commerce Industry, Kyoto Tatsumigumi Porcelain Commerce Industry, Kyoto Embroidery Industry, Kyoto Lacquerware Industry, and Kyoto Thread Industry, as part of a strategy to promote and develop the economy. The fan business, however, was not included in this group. Kisaburo Ishizumi I approached the Governor and successfully ventured to have the fan business included as part of the major economic industry. In acknowledgement of his effort and success, Kisaburo Ishizumi I was appointed as the first Chairman of the Kyoto Folding Fan Commerce & Industry Association.

In 1897 ( Meiji 30th Year ), the Meiji government promulgated the Import and Export Important Commodity Trade Association Law as Statute Number 47 and Kisaburo Ishizumi I became the founder and instigator of the Kyoto Folding Fan Commerce & Industry Association. The Association became an official association through the approval of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture of the Meiji government.

In 1901 ( Meiji 34th Year ), with Kisaburo Ishizumi I as the central figure, the Kyoto Folding Fan Trade Union was formed for the exclusive export of folding fans. In order to develop overseas trade, the Kyoto fan industry put forth an effort into making the display of Japanese fans possible at overseas expositions. The first Kyoto Exposition was held in March 1872 ( Meiji 5th Year ), and in 1901 ( Meiji 34th Year ) at the International Exposition in Paris, as the representative of the Japanese folding fan industry, Kisaburo Ishizumi I accompanied the display of his Giant Fan.

In those days overseas travel and cargo delivery were limited to sea voyage and in March,1901 ( Meiji 34th Year ), the Giant Fan left port for England, Germany and Italy, returning home to Japan in September. Researching designs on the fan that would most appeal and suit the ladies of European society, in 1905 ( Meiji 38th Year ), the folding fan company run by Kisaburo Ishizumi formed the Export Folding Fan Design Committee which held a competition for the best design. In this manner, Ishizumi was instrumental in the promotion and development of the design and drawings on the folding fans, and through such efforts in 1920 ( Taisyo 9th Year ), export of the Japanese folding fan reached its peak at an export level of 4,419,838 fans a year. The destination of the fans was not limited to European countries but also extended to America where it was widely received in North American society.

After the Russo-Japanese War ( 1904-1905 ), the culture of Japan came to the attention of Europe and America. And in particular, traditional Japanese paintings came to be the favoured motif on Japanese fans. In order to accommodate the changing economic trend after the Russo-Japanese war, with Kisaburo Ishizumi Ⅱ at the helm, the Folding Fan Trade Association was formed which acted as a planner for business strategy of the post-war Japanese folding fan industry.

However, due to the effects of World War I ( 1914-1918 ), European and American nations began to severely restrict the import of foreign goods in order to preserve one's national industries, and thus one after another they ceased the import of Japanese fans. Ultimately, in 1916 ( Taisho 5th Year), Italy who until then was the foremost importer of Japanese fans.

February 20, 1921 ( Taisho 10th Year ), Kisaburo Ishizumi Ⅱ who was then the Chair of Kyoto Folding Fan Commerce & Industry Association assembled the history of the Japanese folding fan industry from the end of the Edo period through the Meiji and Taisyo period in a publication titled "Modern History of the Fan" ( published by the Kyoto Folding Fan Commerce & Industry Association ). The book chest for the "Modern History of the Fan" is stored in Japan's National Diet Library.

On March 13, 1921 ( Taisho 10th Tear ), Kisaburo Ishizumi Ⅱ ( at that time Chair of the Association), who had been Councilor since 1900 ( Meiji 33rd Year ) and also a delegate of the Kyoto Folding Fan Committee Trading Association, was recognized by the Association for his contributions and was awarded a meritorious service award. In addition, Soshichi Kitamura who was a long time employee at Ishizumi & Co. was awarded a long term achievement award for his 20 plus years of service.

Until 1885 ( Meiji 18th Year ), the headquarter of the Kyoto Folding Fan Commerce & Industry Association was located at Shimokyo-ku, Gokomachi Sanjo-agaru, Azuchi-cho and then moved to Ainocho-dori, Gojo-agaru, Asazuma-cho, followed by a move to Karasuma-dori, Gojo-sagaru, Osaka-cho and then to Tominokoji-dori, Takatsuji, Kamisugiya-cho. In the Taisho period the headquarter moved to Ryogae-cho, Nijo-sagaru, Kanehuki-cho and then to Kamikyo-ku, Karasuma-dori, Ebisugawa-agaru, Shoshoi-cho.

In this way, from the Meiji period to the Taisho period, both Kisaburo Ishizumi Ⅰand Ⅱ greatly contributed to the folding fan industry and the export of the fans by being core figures in the history of folding fans*.

*Excerpted from "Modem History of Folding Fan" . Published by the Kyoto Folding Fan Comerce & Industry Association,(1921).

Origins of the Ishizumi Family

In 1185 when the Heike clan ( Genji and Heike were fighting each other to rule Japan ) fled to the mountains of western Japan in the Chuugoku Region due to the Battle of Dannoura, the Ishizumi family fled to the Oeyama region in Tango Province situated along the northwestern part of the Sea of Japan in Kyoto prefecture, an area legendary for the ogre Shuten Douji. Thereafter, the family moved to Kurotani in the northern part of Aybabe, Kyoto Prefecture known as the birthplace of Takauji Ashikaga, the Shogun and founder of Muromachi Shogunate. Using the clean, fresh water flowing in a mountain stream running down a valley as well as the mulberry and paperbush that grew nearby, they produced Japanese paper ( washi ), through a technique which the members of the Heike clan relayed to their descendants. This became their family business and this is the root of the Ishizumi family from the Edo ( 1603-1867 ) to Meiji period.

Kurotani is now known as Kurotani-cho, Ayabe City in Kyoto prefecture and their washi method has been designated a Prefectural Intangible Cultural Treasure. It is known as the home to one of the most traditional washi techniques acclaimed not only in Japan but worldwide. With so many families in Kurotani sharing the surname of Ishizumi, the village is sometimes referred to as Ishizumi Village. In current day Japan, everyone who carries the surname Ishizumi descended from Kurotani and a part of the Heike clan.

Towards the ends of the Edo period, Tomoshichi Ishizumi ( passed away in 1884, Meiji 17th Year ) come to Kyoto and is the first Ishizumi to have left Kurotani, as confirmed through the family registry. He was succeeded by his son, Kisaburo Ishizumi Ⅰ( 1852-1905 ) and Kisaburo Ishizumi Ⅱ ( 1873-1950 ), Sotaro Ishizumi ( 1908-1987 ) and Kanji Ishizumi ( 1947-), and Kanji's daughter Tomoe Ishizumi (1981-), Tomoshichi Ishizumi, Kisaburo Ⅰ&Ⅱ were active in the manufacturing and export of Japanese crafts such as folding fans, fans, lamp-style umbrella's to Europe and America which contributed to the success of Ishizumi & Co.
The cargo transportation deparment of the company at that time served as a base to what is now known as Nippon Express, the largest trucking company in Japan who carried the Giant Fan from Japan to London.

Ishizumi family and Sekishu Katagiri & Sekishu School

Sekishu Katagiri ( 1605-1673 ), a nephew of one of the  greatest Samurai Lords, Katsumoto Katagiri ( 1556-1615 )was the great teacher of Sekishu School of Japanese tea ceremony. Sekishu School was appointed as tea ceremony style of the Shogunate family by the third Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651). Sekishu School thereafter became the formal tea ceremony style of the Japanese Imperial Navy. The then chief commander of the Japanese Imperial Navy, Isoroku Yamamoto performed his last tea ceremony under Sekishu School style immediately before his accidental death in South Pacific Ocean during World War II.

Tomoshichi Ishizumi, the originator, founder and first generation of Ishizumi & Co. had come to Kyoto from Kurotani to marry a descendent of Sekishu Katagiri. Ishizumi family has maintained its family house at the exact place in Kyoto where Sekishu Katagiri himself had resided from 1633 to 1643. Ishizumi family donated a Stone Washbowl that Sekishu Katagiri himself had used to Jiko-in Temple, the headquarter temple of Sekishu School.