43.7 (h) x 25.6 x 1 cm
Momoyama period (1573-1603)
Exhibition "Supranatural" @Galerie Mingei
Gunbai - Samurai iron fan
Gunbai, from the Sino-Japanese roots meaning "military-apportioned [fan]", were a specialized form of fan used by samurai officers in Japan to communicate commands to their troops. Unlike regular fans, gunbai were not folding, and were usually made of wood or solid metal. This fan is decorated on one side with Raijin, the god of lightning, thunder and storms in the Shinto religion and in Japanese mythology. His name is derived from the Japanese words rai (thunder) and kami (or shin) (god). He is typically depicted as a spirit with a demonic appearance beating drums to create thunder. On the other side, a kind of constellation made up of nine stars could refer to the nine drums of Raijin, but its definitive meaning remains uncertain.