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Fans featuring plague-fighting folklore character Amabie debut in southwest Japan

Japanese traditional "uchiwa" fans, each with an illustration of Amabie folklore creatures believed to ward off epidemics, are seen being made at a studio in the city of Yamaga, Kumamoto Prefecture, on May 18, 2020. (Mainichi/Kimiya Tanabe)

YAMAGA, Kumamoto -- The production of traditional fans at a local studio in this southwestern Japan city is at its peak this year with a new line of fans featuring a cute illustration of a folklore creature said to drive away epidemics.

The Amabie creature is a mystical "yokai" similar in appearance to a mermaid. It originates in the Edo period (1603-1868), and has enjoyed a popular resurgence since the novel coronavirus struck Japan. Its image is used by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to promote measures against the spread of infections.

Kurikawa Shoten is making the durable "Kutami shibu uchiwa" fans using traditional Japanese paper treated with the astringent, insect-repelling juice of certain types of persimmon. Each fan is handmade. A slew of summer festivals and other events have been canceled due to the new coronavirus, and overall order numbers at the studio have reportedly decreased 20-30% compared with an average year.

"Some believe that fans have the power to drive away misfortune. We hope fans imbued with the power of Amabie will end the pandemic," said a studio representative.

(Japanese original by Kimiya Tanabe, Kyushu Photo Department)

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