face it: we are very ignorant! That's why we constantly ask our visitors to kindly tell us
our mistakes ... and why we ask these "Fans Questions"
with the hope, not always disappointed, to get answers and sometimes
enrich the "Monographs"
section of the website.
our ignorance is even sounder in regard to Asian fans.
However, some have found their way to our hands: their beauty
attracted us, we thought they were a bargain (danger!), or
have a clear link with the Western world. To this last category belongs the fan shown below.
This is a fan witha printed
double leaf and in black lacquered bamboo sticks, with a conventional
rivet composed of a metal tube
and "eyes" with guilloche edges. It measures 25.9 cm at the guardstick
(10.2 inches), with
a 15.8 cm leaf (6.2 inches).
To say the least,
it is truly a refreshing fan! : we see a boat encircled by ice, polar
bears, seals, and the entourage gives an impression of
Three entries should enlighten us: above the picture, a bundle of flags
surrounding a shield inscribed "15 IX 1879". At the bottom left we find
"Tokyo University" and at the bottom right the letters "CN".
What does this leaf show ?
We did not know at first, but we had little difficulty for finding
it. What we see is indeed the ship named Vega, caught in the
ice of the Arctic Ocean, as shown below in an engraving (contemporary
of the event) and a painting by Jacob
What is this event? This is truly one of the last
the great explorations of the nineteenth century. Those interested will
easily find information in learning about Nordenskiöld, the scientist
hero of this adventure.
We will only take a text published by
the "Musée des Familles"
(a Paris monthly magazine) in its May
1880 issue (p 158-160) on the occasion
of a trip to Paris of the explorer:
The lion of the month
in Paris was Professor Adolf Erik Nordensldöld; please
a predestined name meaning "Shield of the North". This
scholar navigator, born in Finland (...), just accomplished the
greatest high deed of this maritime century, however, he is
sailor, but a scientist (...) He had sworn to find the North-East
passage, that is to say the transition from the Atlantic to the Pacific
by the Polar Sea, bypassing Siberia.
(...) the Vega,
a vessel of three hundred tons, armed and thoroughly equipped, left on
July 4, 1878, Gothenburg harbour (...on August 19 .... was)
reached the terrible "North Cape of Storms", Tchélynskin (...) then for
six months there was no word when through a letter brought by a whaler
Nordenskiöld told that the shipment had been stopped by ice at 200 km
West of the Bering Strait. Crew, chief and everybody were healthy and
full of confidence; then, for eleven more months, dead silence, it is
only in December 1879 that the
great news came:
264 days after having been imprisoned in ice, the Vega
had managed to be released on July 18, 1879, 20 and the day after she
had reached the Eastern Cape Bering Strait. For the first time since
the world began, the route from NE Atlantic to the Pacific had been
crossed; it had been in a year, but without a purely accidental
circumstance, it would have been in three months.
(...) Paris had
warmly welcome the most brillant learned professor, who has charmed all
who approached him, both by his modesty and the variety and the extent
of his knowledge. (...)
Mr. Nordenskiöld received
the Commander's Cross of the Legion
d'Honneur from the
President of the Republic, and Captain Palander was made an
Officer. (NB: Captain Palander commanded the Vega).
Our first interrogations were : why this date of
September 15, 1879? Why the mention of "Tokyo University"? Why a
Japanese fan to celebrate the Scandinavian hero? (Add that until we
bought it, the fan was in Sweden).
As for the
words at the bottom left, we
soon learned that the University of Tokyo, founded in 1877 to 1878 in
Western style kept the name "Tokyo University" (东京 大学) until 1886,
when the term "Imperial" was added. So the name
the fan should not be surprising in 1879 (nor the spelling "Tokio" then
commonly accepted, as English had not yet supplanted French in
A quick study shows that the flags are
the French, Russian, Swedish / Norwegian (??), Danish, Japanese,
English, German and American ones.
It appears that
reception took place on September 15, 1879 at Kobu-Daigakko, the predecessor of
the Faculty of Technology of Tokyo Imperial University. It was an exceptionally
grand ceremony at that time with over 130 guests including the presence of
Prince Kitashirakawa, Prince Higashifushimi, as well as the American, Russian
and British ministers. A special silver medallion was awarded to Nordenskiöld
as a token of the Society's appreciation. In his return speech Dr. Nordenskiöld
encouraged Prince Kitashirakawa, the President of the Society, to undertake a
voyage along the Northwest Route from East Asia to Europe by Japanese people
under the auspices of the Society and other expeditions to the Arctic. On
September 17, Nordenskiöld was received by the Meiji Emperor". (Kauko Laitinen,
Ph.D., Docent Renvall Institute University of Helsinki)
But what was done during this meeting, apart from speeches and medals