* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”
The uchiwa is a type of fan, which these days is generally made of plastic and handed out at festivals or in front of train stations for advertising during the heat of summer. Here it is combined with hidari, the word for left, to literally mean to use a fan in the left hand. However, with air conditioners becoming so common these days, you are just as likely to hear the phrase in the cold of winter as the heat of summer because the term carries with it the connotations of living a life of comfort.
In summer you can often tell the mood of someone by the way they are using their uchiwa. Using a fan in the stronger of your two hands is generally taken as a sign that you have something on your mind, maybe a bit stressed or having a sense of purpose. This contrasts with the use of the weaker hand which is so often a sign that the person is relaxed. As most people are right handed it is this image that is being described by the term hidari uchiwa.
Recently at work I heard this word used to describe someone who had produced excellent results during his middle age years, but now entering his fifties is resting on his laurels and not working so hard knowing that the company will look after him. If this is a side effect of the Japanese lifetime employment system then I am glad that it is crumbling.
Example: 左団扇で暮らす。(Hidari uchiwa de kurasu) To live in the lap of comfort.