Ellen Lloyd - AncientPages.com - What at first glance looked like an innocent and beautiful fan was in fact a deadly weapon used by the Samurai and female Ninja.
Known as the Japanese war fan, the weapon was produced in different shapes and sizes. It was often used in feudal Japan by people who wanted to be armed in a discreet manner. The war fan was particularly popular among female ninja warriors.
Left: Portrait of a Samurai warrior and his war fan. Credit: Okinawa Soba (Rob), Flickr - Right: Antique Japanese (samurai) Edo period gunsen war fan, made of iron, bamboo and lacquer depicting the sun (1800-50) on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California. Credit: Public Domain
The war fan is also mentioned in early Japanese legends that describe how warrior heroes fought against mythical creatures and deadly enemies.
There were three types of Japanese war fans and they were known as – gunsen, tessen and gumbi. All of them were produced to resemble harmless folding fans, and they could be used by warriors to cool themselves off, or as very dangerous weapons that were easy to smuggle.
The tessen was a deadly weapon.
The tessen for example, were folding fans made from razor-sharp steel. As such, they could easily be used as surprise weapons. Samuraioften brought them into places where armed forces were forbidden, and visible swords would have been confiscated.