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Questions d'Eventails



A Gastronomic Tribute to Nordenskiöld

Let's 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.

But our ignorance is even sounder in regard to Asian fans.  However, some have found their way to our hands: their beauty has attracted us, we thought they were a bargain (danger!), or  they have a clear link with the Western world. To this last category belongs the fan shown below.

Nordenskjold face

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).

o 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 stalactites.

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 Hägg (1839-1931).

SS Vega
Détail central

What is this event? This is truly one of the last conquests of 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 say  Nordecheude, a predestined name meaning "Shield of the North". This  Swedish scholar navigator, born in Finland (...), just accomplished the greatest high deed of  this maritime century, however, he is not a 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 written on the fan should not be surprising in 1879 (nor the spelling "Tokio" then commonly accepted, as English had not yet supplanted French in international relations).

A quick study shows that the flags are the French, Russian, Swedish / Norwegian (??), Danish, Japanese, English, German and American ones. 

It appears that

"A welcome 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 giving?
To find out ... please go and discover the reverse of the fan on Page 2!