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Tessen - The Iron Fan

By custom and necessity, the tessen, or fan, was an item almost always carried by the Japanese Samurai.

A tessen was usually held in the hands or stuck in the Samurai's belt (or obi). On formal occasions, the samurai were always required to have a tessen in their possession. This was a grave matter of etiquette that had to be followed.

Translated directly into English, tessen means "iron fan.", Not a surprising description, as a tessen was constructed of solid metal ribs. It could either be folded or held stiffly open. Durable and solid, the tessen was more than a tool to cool one down or hide one's face...


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When not engaged in official duties of protection or battle, the samurai would often keep his host of arms stored away. Also, according to custom, whenever a samurai visited a superior, he was required to leave his weapons with an attendant.

The tessen, not being an official weapon, could be kept in his possession. In such cases, the tessen often came in handy, if the Samurai warrior needed to suddenly defend himself.

Carrying the tessen ensured that the Samurai was never totally disarmed. To one who did not know, the tessen was a seemingly innocuous fan. But it could easily be pulled out by the Samurai to defend himself in times of need.

In fact, there are several documented incidents of highly skilled Samurai successfully defending themselves against brutal sword attacks using only a tessen. This lovely, ceremonial fan, often beautifully decorated, could be a deadly weapon.

About the Author:  Scott Harker is the publisher of several websites including: Sherlock Holmes Pastiches, How To Do Card Tricks, and Visit Niagara Falls.


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