The Tessen: Japan's Ancient Iron Fan Weapon In Detail

Japan has a very long and vital history deeply rooted in its epic traditions and cultural nuances. One of the many exciting things about this field is that the art of fighting has always been an essential part of it. 

As an example of this kind of artifact from Japanese martial history, the Tessen is an iron fan-shaped weapon that shows how the country's sense of style and fight are uniquely combined. This blog will look deeply into the Tessen fan, focusing on its history, construction, techniques, historical importance, and place in modern culture.

History of Tessen — How it Developed Over the Years?

Japan has had folding fans, called "ogi" in Japanese, since the time of the Heian era (794–1185). In the past, these fans were made of paper or silk and used as status markers or decorations. They often had fancy designs and writing on them that showed off the owner's taste and social status.

As Japan's feudal society changed, more and more people needed to hide their guns. Samurai and other fighters started to play around with the folding fan's design, adding iron and other metals to make it stronger. This is how the Tessen came to be.

People first used Tessen as a tool in the Genpei War in the 12th century. Supposedly, the famous military leader Taira no Kiyomori used a Tessen to protect himself from enemy strikes. The Tessen has been essential to Japan's martial past ever since.

Tessen Appearance and Characteristics

The Japanese war fan, Tessen, is small and often hidden as decoration. Usually decorated metal plates hide their sharp edges, making them stylish and dangerous in battle. It’s a compact, foldable, yet durable weapon designed for unexpected combat. 

Japanese war fans, or tensen, are unique martial arts tools that look like folded fans but have solid frames and metal ribs. In the past, samurai and ninjas used them for battle and spiritual ceremonies. 

Different tessen come in various shapes, sizes, and materials; some have sharp edges or blades that are tough to see. In Japanese culture, they represent the coming together of art and battle tactics.


Iron and Other Metals: Most fans are made of paper or silk, but the Tessen is mostly iron, making it a solid and valuable tool. Coating the iron bars with lacquer kept them from rusting and made the fan look better. Other metals, like steel or brass, were used sometimes.

Various Types of Wood: The Tessen's robust structure was derived from wooden handles and ribs. Different wood species were employed, such as bamboo, cherry, and oak, contingent upon the artisans' locality and inclination.


Ribs: Three or four iron or wooden ribs linked by a pivot made up the Tessen's structure. These ribs let the fan fold and unfold. With iron plates added to the outside ribs, the swords were often stronger when blocking and hitting.

Slats: The slats were made of iron or metal alloys and could be folded to make a small, hidden weapon. Intricate patterns were sometimes engraved or painted to show the craftsman's skill.

Decorative Elements

Even though the Tessen was made for battle, it still had some features of traditional Japanese fans. For example, the slats were often decorated with art, writing, or gold leaf, which made them look beautiful.

Tessen Techniques and Training Requirements

Basic Techniques

For defense, tenshin jitsu teaches people to use tension to block, parry, and deflect strikes. Swords, knives, and other tools can't hurt the Tessen because it is incredibly strong. With its attacking moves, the Tessen can do more than defend itself. It can use quick, powerful strikes, jabs, and slashing moves to disarm, disable, or hurt an opponent.

Tessen Jutsu

Some people think tension-jutsu is a form of traditional Japanese weapon art, but its primary purpose is self-defense. The methods are more about keeping yourself safe than attacking someone. The main goal of most of the methods was to hold an opponent down instead of hurting or killing them.

Generals and high-ranking Samurai used the Tessen to give orders and signs, and they thought of Tessen-jutsu as a very advanced form of martial arts. It was more humane for them to use Tessen-jutsu than to fight with their deadly swords.

In many duels, people with iron fans beat people with more dangerous swords. A lot of people have also died from hits from a Tessen.

Training Requirements

Training in tenshin jitsu means a lot of practice to improve the fan's smooth moves and skills. Before moving on to more challenging moves, students learn basic footwork, poses, and grips. Kata, which are planned moves, help people get better at what they do and build muscle memory.

Impact of Modern Culture on Tessen

Modern Tessenjutsu: Today, martial artists who understand its cultural and historical importance practice Tessenjutsu. A traditional Japanese martial arts school teaches the art form, passing on the Tessen's heritage to future generations.

Tessen as a sign of Japanese culture: The Tessen has become a symbol of Japanese culture because it combines style and strength. It is a common theme in literature, art, and movies and represents the country's long history and customs.

The Tessen influenced art, fashion, and design: Modern artists and designers have been inspired by the Tessen and have used its design features in various mediums. The Tessen family has left its mark on modern style, from fashion items to home decor.

The Bottom Line 

To sum up, the Tessen is an excellent example of how Japan can make something beautiful that serves a purpose. Warriors used to be able to swing this iron fan as a weapon. Now, it symbolizes the country's rich martial past and cultural heritage. 

We learn more about Japan's traditions and the art of war by looking into the Tessen's history, methods, and effects. As you learn more about Japanese culture, the spirit of the Tessen may teach you to value the delicate balance between style and strength.