Japan 2019 Fall Tour – Day 11

An Indigo Day!
Today we visited two farms whose crops are indigo. Here a young farmer, Kent Watanabe, and his young farm hands are working on the fermenting process that began this week and will go on for some weeks. Their hands and fingernails caught my attention immediately after we arrived on the farm. [click photos to enlarge]

Indigo dye is made from indigo plants. Various plants grow all over the world. These are cultivated on Shikoku island outside of Tokushima. The plants are harvested and processed before the indigo can be used for dyeing. Blue jeans traditionally are dyed with indigo. Chemical dyes are often used instead however.

Young Mr Watanabe’s dye vats are unique in that they are made of stainless steel. Usually they are huge ceramic pots sunk in the ground and about waist deep. The advantage is his vats are wider so larger things can be dyed easier. His are chest deep. One still has to bend over and reach into the vats while dyeing. I suggested he make his next vats do one could stand up while dyeing. That would be a first!

After harvesting the plants the leaves are chopped up and thoroughly dried and kept in large bags until October when the fermentation process begins.

The fermenting process begins with the dry leaves sprayed with water and mixed together to distribute the moisture evenly throughout the dry material.

Turning the plant material to distribute the moisture for fermentation is strenuous work and takes place over a period of weeks.

A day of turning the plant material to moisten it just right for fermentation is left piled up just so until the next time it is all turned over again.

Back in Mr Watanabe’s studio he shows us his little shrine for his indigo dyeing. I asked if he had one because most Japanese indigo dyers I’ve visited have some type of shrine—usually much bigger than his. He knew what I was asking for but he had to search around a bit before he could find his cute little good luck shrine.

We also visited the very large indigo farm of the well known master, Mr. Osamu Nii. The pictures of the fermentation process are from his operation.

2 thoughts on “Japan 2019 Fall Tour – Day 11”

  1. I am surprised they do not have a hoist over the vats to lower and lift their material. Also, there are rotating conveyers that could assist in the drying stage. We use those in the paper industry.
    Are there any illnesses associated with this dye process?

    travel safely Peggy and Cathy!


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