Japan 2018 Shibori Symposium – Post 4


Japan 2018 Shibori Symposium – Post 4 – An art site on Teshima Island. We took our little boat to this island in the rain but it cleared when we got to this island to see more art installations. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside any of the sites so these were post cards I got. Sort of innocent looking but WOW inside. It is about the size of half a football field. A lot of people could fit inside but only a few when I went in.

Here’s the inside. We were instructed to be quiet and listen for any sounds of water and not to touch any wet places on the floor. We took off our shoes and went inside.

Here’s a peek inside the entrance where it was allowed to take photos. All was silent inside and we slowly walked around and noticed very subtle things.

On the floor I soon found drops of water and small puddles here and there. I really had to watch were I stepped. Then I noticed some of the drops were very slowly growing bigger. Then some drops overflowed and started making rivlets and some of them ran into other drops and they joined to make little rivlets and I watched with fascination as the drops ran into others and ended up in a puddle. This is hard to explain. Looking closely I could see a tiny ball with water dripping out of it which made the drops enlarge. There were some teeny tiny black dots that fed tiny drops. And some of the tiny black dots were actually holes so the water drained out and the puddle disappeared. This photo from a post card was out of focus but you can see some drops. We didn’t see anything that looked like the metal rings in the photo. All so subtle and completely absorbing and wonderfully inventive. The guide outside said it was a secret how everything was controlled. Obviously the floor and the water droplets acted like oil and water not mixing. I loved it!

My photo outside.

Another installation on Teshima Island. This is called Yokoo House and I liked the red areas. There were other paintings on the mysterious walls too. This is the entrance.

An enclosed garden inside.

Looking at the garden through a red window!! It was fascinating to see how the colors changed.

A look inside the women’s restroom!

This “ room” was Waterfall. It was a very tall cylindrical room with a mirror at the top. Maybe the mirror on top made it look taller. The walls were covered with photos of waterfalls. All of the installations we saw yesterday. It took much of today to absorb all of it. It was glorious to take the day off.

Japan 2018 Shibori Symposium – Day 3


Japan 2018 Shibori Symposium – Day 3 – On day 3 we took a small boat to visit islands with art installations. This was the view as we approached the island called Inujima which was named Dog Island after a large rock that resembled a dog. This is an architectural art work that was made out of the ruins of a copper refinery. It was more creative than one could ever ever imagine. Our first art experience on our first island. It now is the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum—a very large installation.

This is what the copper refinery was like in the early 20th century. These photos are from a booklet I bought at the museum.

There were many walls made of brick made of waste that I think is called slag. Many walls were made on the site made of this black material.

This was the entry into the inside of the museum. There were mirrors that were disorienting at the many corners. When I thought to go straight I would be banging into a mirror forcing me to turn the corner. It was pretty dark inside with bits of light coming from the outside somehow.

This room is what we entered at the end of the hall of corner mirrors. Unbelievably odd and unusual.

A few of us were ushered into a small square room. With the doors closed we saw this video which was mirrored so we were surrounded. You know how mirrors can work to see to infinity. That’s what it was like.

This is what you saw when you went into a stall in the women’s restroom.

One of the ruined buildings being over run gradually with vegetation. Everything was visually stunning.

More of the ruins that made up the museum.

Japan 2018 Shibori Symposium – Day 2


Shibori Symposium – Day 2 of Inland Sea & Kyoto Pre-Symposium Tour. I’m at the place that is supposed to be the highlight of the Inland Sea part of the tour but I am so full of what we’ve seen already that I’m taking the morning to absorb the art seen and enjoy the patio on our room. I hear surf, feel a delicious soft breeze and taking a breath before the busy Kyoto days and then the symposium begins. There are 33 on this tour from all over and all doing interesting art work.

This is the Benesse House Park Hotel on the island of Naoshima which is surrounded by art outdoors as well as inside. Nothing is usual about this architecture and art. My roommate says it’s called “ brutal architecture “. It’s modern elegant simple comfortable with wood glass and lots of concrete. It’s so peaceful sitting and enjoying relaxing listening to the surf.

Example number one of the art I see from my private patio.

Example two. The large lawn is interspersed with concrete walls and spaces. I see the tops of the walls which are level with the ground. This space is below ground level. It’s another artwork seen from my patio. There are works of art to be visited around the island via a shuttle bus. Everyone else is exploring it at their own space. I’m enjoying being alone. There are art installations on other islands that we have seen. And that is what I was ant to absorb today. I’ll show them in another post.

These “sticks” move from side to side. On the way to dinner last night I saw the rest of the moving sculpture from ground level! The art projects on these islands are unbelievably creative interesting and inspiring.

The Inland Sea from my patio. Just now I see a big tanker ship going by!

This is how my saki was served at last nights elegant dinner. Breakfast was a buffet that was as large as I’ve ever seen. Cappuccinos were available of course and last night I had a decaf espresso. This is a fine place. Tonight will be a special Japanese dinner. We had a choice. That or French dinner. I chose Japanese. The setting is supposed to be wonderful.

Japan 2018 Shibori Symposium – Day 1


Shibori Symposium – Day 1 (Facebook Viewers – Go to my blog to see the videos) – I led a group of us on the train to Nagoya to see an utterly fantastic museum. Toyota originally was a loom making company. Old looms complete with guides/weavers to work them are there and it’s totally wonderful.

This old loom was run by peddling. It was great to have guides hanging around to run the various looms and explain how they work.

Mr Toyoda got the idea uto motorize a bicycle in 1930 which led him to make his first car in 1933. 1936 was when he made his first passenger car.

Here robots are seen at work. This was so fascinating.

Getting an old power loom going. Wait until it gets started and notice all the pulleys in the museum. Each one ran a loom. Notice too the metal things going up and down slightly behind the shafts. If a thread breaks it’s metal piece will fall down and break the connection and stop the loom. Now I understand why videos need editing! The stuff is truly interesting but making a video of it is hard to keep in mind where the camera is. Or to remember to stop the video.

Be patient a little then you will see how a modern power loom used forced air to move the weft across. The weft thread is red in the video. There are several air jets across the loom that continuously force the weft along. Again at lightening speed. Air is used for cotton weft threads and water for weaving with polyester. Interesting isn’t it?

This close up shows how a power loom today moves the weft between the warp threads by force of water. The display was set up so you could push a button to start the action. The water forces the thread through and the it is cut and the next thread is shot across the warlords. All st lightening speed.

Jacket to be shared!


Here’s the jacket–Cathy Cerny and I are sharing it. I have the summer when I go to Japan and Cathy has the fall when her exhibition opens in the fall. After that we’ll dicide how the sharing will go. Neither one of us could bear to part with it.

Here’s a map of where I’ll be for the 11th International Shibori Symposium. I’ll begin around June 23rd or so. Bye for now! 

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 23


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 23 – Parting sights Friday from Tokyo. Old and new side be side.

Clouds and skyline.

After the fantastic textile reception on our night.

The reception was in a gallery on the Ginza. The show was of furniture by G Nagashima and textiles. One room was an International show of cutting edge textiles. It included large and small work—very exciting. The other room was of wonderful innovative Japanese kimono lengths. One woman we met wove her fabric in a gauze weave out of shinafu—fibers from linden wood bark. She gave us business card folders out of that fabric. When we went to visit where it was made we couldn’t afford a thing. It was very special. Her obi was woven with shifu—weft was made of threads made out of paper. Another length was woven with zenmai threads— fibers made of ferns. We had searched for it but it was too rare to find some.

Our last visit to our favorite tea house inside a flower shop.

Tea was delicious but the ice cream dish with rose buds and rose jelly nuts other things I couldn’t identify was sublime. They were still featuring peonies.

A video of the flower shop at the tea place.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 22


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 22 – We went by subways and trains (I think we did) to get to the big monthly flea market in the town of Kawagoe. By now I’ve been there 3 times so it didn’t seem daunting at all. I got 3 old cotton kimonos to use for fabric to dye and finally some skeins of sashiko threads. I just couldn’t accept that it was only available in small packages. Tonight I spent doing preliminary packing. I bought a big carton from the front desk at our hotel and will take it to them to send home tomorrow. It will cost an arm and a leg. Next trip I’ve got to leave more room in my suitcases when I leave home. I will take a good look when I unpack and take note of what I didn’t use.

This is the map of the subways and trains in Tokyo. Cathy’s copy is almost worn out. I always had mine at the ready in case she asked for it. Then I just tag along. We transfer all over the place and walk miles and miles underground from one train line to another. You can see from the map that the lines are color coded. Cathy tells me which line to look for in the maze underground. There are thousands of steps up and down to make connections as well as enter and exit from ground level. We are thankful when there is an escalator going our direction or better yet an elevator.

There are signs all over the place to guide you in the subways. We have cards and put $100 on it when we arrived. Then you just tap your card when going through the gates. You need that card at the ready because you may exit and enter several times when executing a transfer. I think we may have around $60 left on our cards—in preparation for another trip hopefully. I’ll be using mine when I come back mid June for the International Shibori Symposium.

This is one of many maps in a subway station. It’s important to get out at the right gate or you’ll have a huge walk when you get above to ground level. Cathy is amazing at this.

This was a sign on a track at a train station where we transferred today getting back from the flea market. They are close and on time. You could easily walk on the wrong train if not careful. Our train was for 13:50 if I remember.

One of many posters and signs telling you what to do and not to do in the subways. One sign on the escalator at a department store had a graphic sign saying not to use your iPhone while on the escalator. Tomorrow is our last day and we plan to hit our favorite places again. There is an art exhibition relating to textiles I assume opening tomorrow night which should be interesting.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 21


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 21 – A nice ball of fiber made from the bark of linden wood trees. The thread and cloth made from it is called shinafu. I loved the shape of the ball which is wound around the thumb. This one is about the size of a croquet ball. It’s the biggest one I’ve seen. They weighed it to determine the price It was unaffordable. I’d like to make them as sculptures. The thread pulls out from the hole in the center. That will be my post for today. We have to get up early to get to a big flea market in the morning. We went to a small one today. Unfortunately I am still buying stuff that can’t be resisted.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 20


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 20 – Tokyo Tower. A welcome sight the tower was as we neared our Shiba Park Hotel after another full day.

After lunch and two folk art exhibits with two Tokyo friends Cathy and I returned to the fabric store in the Shinjuku area. I wanted more wool because when I washed a little piece in the bathroom sink last night it fulled (shrank nicely) easily. I also wanted the special thread for sashiko stitching. Cathy wanted some of the wool, too.

Shinjuku was really crowded today, Saturday. Yesterday it was so bad we stopped for dinner to avoid the rush hour going home on the subway. This is a photo of people waiting for the light to change.

This is a Starbucks on the third floor of a big building in Shinjuku. This is the line waiting to order—there were 18 people in that line. There were about 20 in the line waiting for their drinks. It was the third or fourth place we tried to get a coffee—all too crowded. We thought no one would know about this place on the third floor. Boy were we wrong. Cathy lined up to get a table while I went for the drinks. A mad house it was.

We stopped to get food to take back to the hotel for dinner. Another mad house. There are food courts in the basements of the many department stores. We’ve made many meals this way and found bakeries too.

This octopus salad was my main course. I also had a tomato salad and a salad with avocado and fresh vegetables. All delicious to eat wearing my pajamas and the hotel’s free slippers.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 19


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 19 – Finally arrived at Mrs Sooma’s to shop. We got some nice things.

We took the train to Tokyo today. Left at 7:38 and arrived at 1:24 to hot and humid weather and crowds of people. We met a friend who took us to a fabric shop where fashion students go. I bought these linens and silks and one lovely wool for dyeing.

Okadaya fabric store was 5 floors chock full of fabrics. Thank goodness I had in mind what to look for.

Another shot in the fabric store, Okadaya. Originally I wanted light weight wool that was loosely woven and see through. I got one piece then moved on to linens and then quickly to silk organza which dyes fantastically well. Then we got out of there before getting overwhelmed. I am excited about dyeing them with the natural dyes that are new to me.

Our last views of rice fields from the bullet train.

It always surprises me to see the houses so crowded together.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 18


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 18 – A creative sashiko vest. Today we were taken to Towada about an hour drive from our hotel in Hon-Hachinohe by a textile dealer we met the other day at a flea market in Morioka. She brought along her friend who spoke great English. Her friend was wearing this lovely subtle vest she created from two old kimono fabrics. Here is the inside of the vest showing sashiko stitching covering it completely. The patch was to cover a hole in the fabric. She really gave the old fabrics a new look. Click to enlarge to see the original cloth.

Here’s a closer look at the fabric she created. She was shy so I will keep her identity secret.

Here is the back of the vest. It was her original design.

Vest front. Designed by an artist.

Our first stop in Towada was to visit the Takumi Studio which is chock full of looms making sakiori cloth using bits of rags. People can come in and weave for a small fee for an hour to make a table mat. The looms were the same type that were in yesterday’s post. This photo shows the fronts of a row of looms.

The back of one of the looms.

I just liked this view down a row of looms. The cords are made of rags or fabric made into cords. The other end of the cord is a loop which goes around the weaver’s ankle. When the ankle pulls back it pulls the end of the bow-like piece down which raises the other end of the bow which raises the heddle bar that lifts half of the threads while weaving.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 17


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 17 – Hon Hachinohe, Japan. This is our last stop before ending up in Tokyo for 5 nights. The photo is of the technique we came here to see. The technique is called “hashizashi”. I took this photo in the museum here; it’s a variation of sashiko. It’s a form of stitching diamonds and instead of working the needle like in kogin the needle goes into the fabric perpendicular to the cloth one stitch at a time. The video looked like a blunt needle went between the threads of the foundation cloth. I’m feeling pretty vague about the technique still.

This technique seems to be traditionally done on aprons. I hope we’ll get more information tomorrow. The technique is called hashizashi.

We expected to find sakiori cloth woven in this area as well as the diamond pattern stitching, called “hashizashi”. We saw a woman weaving it in a shop. It was interesting to actually see her weaving and the motions she did and the loom. This photo shows the fabric which is fairly thick since it is woven with strips of cloth like for rag rugs we are familiar with.

Here is the woman weaving the sakiori cloth. She randomly selected different colors of rags, choosing from some bundles of rags she had by the loom. This is an old technique used to make sashes for the kimono called obi. The old ones I have are so soft and subtle compared with these new ones where the colors are not faded and are much brighter.

Click to enlarge We were braver tonight for our dinner “restaurant “ and stoped in this tiny stall in a lovely little alley. There was room for a very small charcoal fire ringed with pieces of fish on sticks cooking and 6 tiny stools.

Here are the fish grilling around the fire ring. The ones that are cooked are standing away from the fire. Cathy had the best salmon she ever tasted and I had a delicious fish. This town/city? is on the coast with a big port and known for fishing.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 16

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Japan Tour 2018 – Day 16 – Kogan Stitching a development from Sashiko. This type of stitching is only in the Tsugaru area in northern Japan and that’s the reason we are here. It differs from the sashiko that I’ve seen before is the patterns but it is done with a blunt needle and the threads of the foundation cloth are counted. Sashiko with which I’ve been slightly familiar is done with a sharp pointed needle. It was usually done with a thick white thread on indigo fabric. It was interesting to find out that when it got old and dirty it was over dyed with indigo. The stitches were still there but barely seen if it was dyed a very dark shade.

We started out with breakfast at Starbucks which was in an old historic building and not having a plan but we knew we wanted to see the kogin fabric and maybe sashiko as well. A stop at the visitors bureau on the way back to our hotel gave us some leads marked on a map. We chose this shop which turned into a gold mine. We forgot to take pictures as what happens when one gets involved so here is the business card with the contact information. Minako Hikima’s shop had lovely things to sell as well as supplies for stitching. After some conversation she offered to take us to a famous kogin teacher and see her wonderful collection of old kimono fabrics. What luck for us!!

This is where we were taken. We had tried to get here twice but the phone recording said only by reservation so it was really lucky for us that we got to go there. It is the gallery of Mrs. Yoko Sato famous as an artist collector and teacher. It was just grand to see and learn about so many of the patterns used and the histories of the different types. A video at the end of this post shows her stitching and the interesting way it’s done and how she uses the needle.

On the way from our last stop at an indigo shop we saw this man cleaning up after pruning this big pine tree. There was a huge amount of pine needles to sweep up. I’m told they pluck individual needles to accomplish such gorgeous trees in Japan.

For dinner we chose a place we saw last night but it was fully booked. We tried our hotel and they didn’t serve dinner but suggested a little place down the street. We peeked in and went into a small neighborhood sushi and yakatoti restaurant where a customer welcomed us and bought us a bottle of sake. We were quite the topic of conversation and they were surprised we could use chopsticks. And we all did pretty good with sign language and laughter. Here we are after finishing off the sake.

Here’s the video of Mrs Sato stitching. Notice how she holds the needle and uses her special needle and how she tensions the stitching.

Japan Tour 2018 – Hirosaki Night Time Storefront Gallery


Japan Tour 2018 – Hirosaki – Night Time Storefront Gallery – [to view slideshow click HERE and/or click the first photo below]
A mosaic of night life scenes taken tonight in the town of Hirosaki. Our hotel is in the bar district and many of the door ways and “storefronts” were lovely and/or interesting. There were so many taxis waiting around. Made me think of the Broadway district in San Francisco years ago. 

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 15


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 15 – We are in the town of Hirosaki which is sashiko country. The cloth is sometimes covered with stitching and sometimes white stitching in vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines. The stitching is done on one or more layers of cloth. Originally it was for mending and later to make cloth heavier for warmth. There are several types of designs and reading about all of this is terribly fascinating. We went to the Hirosaki Koginzashi Institute and saw a lovely collection of old kimonos and patterns.

The Institute is a place where local women bring in sashiko pieces they have been commissioned to stitch. Here are two women having their work checked in and recorded.

The women are given pieces cut carefully one by one by women at the Institute and assigned what designs to stitch at home. There is an enormous inventory there of stitched items to go to shops for retail from little coasters to buttons to larger bags.

This old kimono was once had white stitching on dark blue indigo cloth. After some aging it was completely over-dyed in indigo almost obliterating the intricate stitching pattern.

This is a pattern on a short kimono- like jacket that Cathy and I found in a little dusty antique shop. We are “fighting “ over who gets to have it. I saw it first but we agreed ahead of time if we both wanted the same thing we would flip a coin or negotiate. So we will see what else comes up and decide who gets it. I passionately want to have it. The indigo is a light shade because people couldn’t afford to pay for many dips in the dye to make a darker shade. And it fits me perfectly and is very wearable and the fabric is strong even though it is old. [see some Instagram comments below]

  • finniganh Peggy do you think this was done in part using the ikat method?
  • tludlowhunter Love it! I’m pulling for you to win !!
  • lisascenic I like the way this is both structured and unstructured.
  • shiborigirl Love the combo of kasuri, sashiko and indigo!
  • peggyoster@finniganh yes there is ikat too
  • ysabelladreamer A Solomonic solution, though I am not Solomon, would be to SHARE. It on a weekly monthly or yearly basis. Determine the time set dates and exchange it!!!! It would be the Solomon Ikat short kimono….
  • ysabelladreamer I must say it is a wonderfully executed gorgeous Ikat. The star pattern of stitching is extraordinary. It almost looks like a tie die. But you could not do tie-die and ikat on the same fabric, I think …. The shade of indigo is so perfect as an old looking piece. For you who knows so much about textiles, techniques of weaving, the process of indigo, tie dye, embroidery and much more: this is a found “gem” ( i would love to have it too!!!) Since you saw it first, i am rooting for you to have it (Solomonic solutions are puzzling but if you decide on it put it on writing it helps clear the mind) Does Cathy knowledge of textiles rivals yours?
  • peggyoster Yes she knows her stuff. Interesting way to settle this – will let you know.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 13


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 13 – Today we visited the stencil dyer, Mr Shintaro Ono in his shop and gallery. He showed us how stencils were used on cloth and then his collection of textiles in the gallery.

This elaborate old doll in Mr. Ono’s collection really impressed me. I’m told it is of an empress and a figure often associated with Girls Day. It was large—at least 2’ high.

Mr. Ono in his shop in front of a noran dyed with one of his hundreds of traditional stencils. If you visit me you will see it hanging in my window. I was completely seduced by it even though the window behind it is distracting.

Here is Cathy shopping. This is a typical area in a traditional shop in Japan.

We did some shopping in this antique store. China and textiles were the featured items. The aisles were narrow as seen here and moving by one another with all the old dishes on display was a challenge. Now I know what “a bull in a china shop” is really like. We are still muttering about a large old textile with the traditional purple dye. We are thinking of sharing it. We will go back tomorrow if the shop is open on Sunday and decide what to do. The muted purple dye was gorgeous— made from the roots from old wild plants that are not allowed to be used anymore.

Here we are after a hard day of shopping after ice cream and a coffee. It rained all day and was really cold and windy. We were glad for our raincoats. I really needed my wool beret. We heard there was some serious flooding where we’d been in Murakami last week. Photos on TV showed water in the rice paddies over flowing their dikes.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12 – The Noodle Video

 Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12 – The Noodle Video – Video with sounds of the bowls of soba noodles being served at the soba restaurant last night. Our personal waitress kept push more and more on us and the sound of the bowls being piled up was charming if that’s the right word.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 12 – Today was our first day in Morioka. Friends from Tokyo joined us and made appointments for us and did translating as well as help to get us around town on a very rainy day. Our first visit was to a lovely shop featuring purple dyed shibori silk kimonos and smaller pieces. Mr. Fujita is the president of Soshido Ltd. and he answered questions after we saw a video about this interesting purple dye and the shibori (tie dye) process. I had never heard of this natural dye which is from Shikon (Lithospermnm erthrorhizone) root. The color is called murasaki. These words were bantered around and I think I have it right. Anyway this dyeing with them root to make purple goes back to “early times”. I bought this lovely silk piece which is about 14” x 9”. It is nicely finished with a grey silk lining.

Soshido Ltd also does dyeing with what we call madder root and is called Akane by the Japanese. The red is gorgeous. This piece I bought is about 14” x 22” and is finished the same as the purple piece to be used as a table runner or mat. I love the shibori design. I hope my tech guy can make the red as lovely as it is in real life. We were told they have 800 shibori patterns and about 10-15 older women who do the shibori tying. They also do contemporary design some but want to keep alive the traditional ones. A stencil is used to mark the fabric for the pattern then all the stitching for the shibori is done and then the threads drawn up tightly and knotted. He said untying after dyeing can take longer than tying.

After sandwiches and lattes at Tulley’s Coffee shop we visited a homespun business called Oriza. It was begun after the war by and for women and today is still completely a women’s business. Sheep were raised for home use in the area after World War I. Today they get wool fleece from New Zealand and Australia. They have two huge carding machines and 3 people who are spinning with motorized spinners. There’s a huge warping reel a chemical dye area and a weaving room with about 10 looms— I forgot to count. I bought this gorgeous scarf with a lovely soft hand and subtle colors in a 3/1 twill made by the woman who showed us around. I don’t need a wool scarf in San Francisco very often but I loved it and couldn’t resist.

I bought this very large beautiful shawl at a large shop featuring crafts made in Morioka. It is made of bamboo and feels good of course. I loved the grey which is dyed with coal. The white areas stuck me and the two colors make it really attractive.

This is a very very large shawl made of cotton mosquito netting. I bought it with the idea of cutting it up and dyeing it when I get home. However it might be a perfect fabric for the hot Japanese summer we’ll have when I come back for the symposium in Yamagata in July. The other day I got a nice top made with the same cloth in a light blue.

We went to a unique to Morioka soba place for dinner. All you can eat and they encourage everyone to eat a lot. Here are the 20 empty bowls of soba noodles that I had. Cathy had 41 bowls! The place is called Wanko Soba. Each table has its own waitress who keeps filling your soup bowl with more and more bowls of soba.

Here I am slurping soba noodles. The waitress kept piling up my empty bowls until the stack was 15 high. Then a new stack was started. In the video you can hear the waitress throwing the bowl onto each person’s stack. We each got certificates for eating the number we had. Notice the bib. The noodles were warm and I think they tasted good.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 11


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 11 – We visited reknown indigo dyer, Matsue Chiba, out in the countryside outside Kurikoma. She is the third generation to use indigo in this old traditional method which used to be done long ago. Now her son and niece are the fourth generation and the only dyers using this “cold” indigo method. It uses only three ingredients which is unusual today. They are indigo, ash, and water. She is showing our Japanese friend how she puts the cloth to be dyed on stretchers to hold the cloth apart in the dye. They are not dyeing now but she explained her technique to us.

Mrs. Chiba talked with us in her small show room next door to her weaving room and next to her dye vat room. Her color of indigo is distinctive—not the dark shade we often see. The piece hanging was gorgeous and stenciled and dyed by a previous generation—her mother I think it was.

Mrs. Chiba told us she had just now planted the indigo seeds. This is mid-May. The seedlings will be translated then harvested in August/September. The leaves will be put in net bags and hung to dry. There is a year and a half cycle that she explained and I remember vaguely. At some time the leaves were fermented. Then mixed with water to make little patties. These would be used for the dyeing. During December and January they make wood ash from linden tree bark. They are constantly burning so can’t leave home while making the ash. It will be used in the indigo dye. The dyeing actually is done in May using the patties made from the previous years crop. Usually she dips twice for 3 minutes each time for her light shades. However she sometimes dips more times for darker color.

Here are her indigo vats. Notice they are above ground so they are not heated. All other methods I’ve seen in Japan have the vats deep In the ground with heaters to keep the temperature just the right warmth.

Here is the altar/shrine for her dyeing area. I think most indigo dyers have one above their vats. Her dyed cloths were of many different shades of blue which she attributed to the differences of the indigo at different times. I think that might mean at the beginning or end of a dye session for example or how happy the indigo was at the time. For another example does it need to have ash added.

We heard the frogs right outside her studio all the while. When we stepped outside we could also hear the pretty swift river where she washes the cloth.

We said goodbye to our Japanese companions at the train station. Their bullet train left at 2:59 and ours at 3:02. They passed one another, one coming in while the other going out.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 10


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 10 – More from Yonezawa before taking trains to Sendai. Mr Suwa’s studio also made baskets and these lovely baskets by hand. Today was a half day of traveling and nothing special this afternoon. We took 2 bullet trains to get to the big city of Sendai changing at Fukushima. I saw lots of houses and farming but no evidence of the nuclear trouble. This post will be a catch up for more of yesterday’s adventures. Mr. Suwa’s factory included an area for basket making. These were in the inventory but not available for sale.

Here were two of the three basket makers. The man is working on a handle and the girl is tediously weaving with strips. No wonder the baskets are so expensive.

These are molds for shaping the handmade baskets.

A closer look at her weaving with those individual strips of basket material. She is lifting every other one to go over and under just like weaving with strips of paper!

I’m trying to send a video I took in the power loom room at Mr. Suwa’s yesterday. It starts out with just the sound of the loom. Keep watching and you’ll see the woman running the loom. It could be a fairly long video with me moving the camera wildly at times. I hope it works. Tomorrow we take a train at 8:02 on the way to see an indigo dyer.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 9


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 9 – Our last day in Yonezawa. We had an appointment to visit Nonohanazome Studio, the weaving and natural dyeing studio of Goichi Suwa. After tea with him and his mother we toured his factory. Here we are at the end of our visit. Mr Suwa is holding the gifts Cathy and I presented him. His showroom had many rolls of kimono cloth made from a variety of fibers as well as silk that were dyed with natural dyes. He has two weaving rooms—one for hand weaving which had a jacquard loom going making plain weave on an ikat warp. Another weaver was weaving natural dyed strips of cloth for heavier sakiori cloth for an obi. The other room had around 3-4 power looms. The dobby loom was making loud rhythmic clacking sounds which I love to hear. I took a video mainly for that sound but got nice pictures of a middle aged woman bending over and watching carefully to be sure the width stayed perfect and periodically she would stop the machine to mover her measuring tape just like we do.

Here Mr. Suwa is showing us his indigo vats. This one was only 2weeks old and not ready yet. He makes new vats 3 times a year. He brought out a big bottle of sake to show us that it is an ingredient that adds sugar to the vat. He uses the “sukumo” (spelling) method for making his indigo. Japanese who specialize in indigo are famous for their rich colors and shades. We saw an alter above the vats which I’ve heard is common around indigo vats.

Here was a big pot boiling with these twigs to make dye. He dyes with the twigs from flowering cherry trees cut just before the blossoms bloom. He gets these from trees that have fallen under the weight of winter snow. I said I’d try it in San Francisco because we have cherry blossoms too but then remembered we don’t have the snow! He gave me some twigs to dye with when I get home. I’m still going to keep an eye out for cherry tree trimmings to cook up for dye.

Here is the pot boiling away for a red dye. Cherry gives pink. A new to me dye for red is a plant called Akane. I will learn about it when I come back to Japan in June for the Shibori Symposium.

These come from safflower flowers. This area of Japan is famous for benebana (spelling) the name for dyeing with safflowers. When I come to the International Shibori Symposium in this area next month we will go to a field of flowers and pick them for the dye. That’s the reason for having the symposium in hot July in Japan. I’ve seen these little patties which I assume are made somehow from the flowers for the dye. All to be learned.

This is the end of a kimono length with the label that tells that the fabric is woven from yarn made from fiddle head ferns! Last week we saw people drying little pieces of these on mats on the road and driveways. Yesterday we ate small pieces on our soba. Editors note for Day 8: The process of ikat using boards is called itijime. The owner of the studio is Mr. Sato.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 8


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 8 – We took an hour ride in a taxi from our hotel in Yonezawa to a small village among rice paddies and cherry orchards named Shirataka. We visited the studio where a seldom seen form of ikat is done by wrapping threads onto boards to resist the dye to make the patterns. Here are warp threads that have been dyed. Next they will go to the weavers studio to be put on a loom and woven.

Here is one of many boards used to make a simple or complex pattern. If you zoom in you can see the silk threads wrapped on the grooved board. The dye eventually will flow through the channels of the grooves. Note the cut out at the edge for a pattern There would be 40 or more boards wrapped and stacked and held tightly next to one another in a press like device.

This is an example of one pattern of cloth woven with both warp and weft threads dyed with the boards forming the resist and dyed areas of the pattern. The dye was black. The threads were white to begin with.

During dyeing, the wrapped boards would be stacked in the holder on the left in the photo and the dyer would pour the hot black dye over the stack. He would dip and pour the dye over and over for perhaps a half hour. The dye would drain through the pattern grooves and run out a spout below back into the dye pot.

Here is a stack of wrapped boards in the holding press. You can see the threads wrapped on the edges of the boards. You can see evidence of the pattern on the side of the stack. The whole thing would be turned on it’s side when the dye is poured over it so the dye can drain down through.

On the loom a black warp is added on the beam but the pattern portion is separated so it can be adjusted by individual threads as needed during weaving.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 7

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Japan Tour 2018 – Day 7 – We left our lovely Japanese inn this morning for almost a whole day of traveling on various trains. We left at 9:30 and got to our hotel In Yonezawa around 3:00. This is the garden at the inn. There were beautiful compositions where ever you looked in the gorgeous garden—complete with koi swimming around, of course.

A partial view of our breakfast at the inn this morning. Notice the fire cooking something good.

We rode past many rice fields. If you look closely you can see snow on the mountain. It was cloudy all day so all the scenery had a shadowy feel to it.

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Finally we saw cherry blossoms. They have all been finished wherever we’ve been. We are farther north but I only saw these from the train. I kept looking for them in the villages we rode through. Many houses had something blooming but the cherry blossoms were all gone. We have seen evidence of beautiful cherry trees along rivers in several places along our trip however.

This is my best photo of snow on the mountains. They were quite a distance from the train.

This picture doesn’t belong here but I couldn’t resist it. This was in a tiny shop in the little town where the Japanese inn was. We love soft ice cream and had to stop when we saw the sign outside this mans shop. This was new technology to me.

Japan Tour 2018 – Day 6


Japan Tour 2018 – Day 6 – This is a hot springs area and we have one night in a ryokan which is a Japanese inn. I am sitting on my futon on the floor covered with tatami mats making my daily post. I love the smell of the tatami and think I will sleep well tonight (which is Saturday night). One of our Japanese friends joined us today which was great help getting around.

We took a local bus to Sekikawa a small village in the country side to a see shinafu which is weaving with bark fiber. Bark from tall Japanese linden trees which are cut down are processed by many steps down to fibers about 30 meters long. That’s the length of the bark stripped from the felled tree. This is men’s work we learned from an excellent video all in Japanese (our friend Takako translated details). Then women do all the processing. One of the last steps is to join the lengths of fibers to form yarn for the warp and weft. The join is made with some twisting. It was demonstrated but too much for me to catch. However when looking at the “yarns” you can see the 1/2” or so twisted spots here and there. The photo shows the steps starting with the bark. There were interesting thing on display and many small things to but of the woven cloth and fibers.

This is the road into the village showing mountains and verdant country.

Here is a farmer beginning to plant rice. We finally got a chance to see the tractor up close. We were really in the country. We snatched sandwiches at the train station at Tsuruoka which was good because there were no places to get food let alone coffee. We ate our lunches overlooking the rice farmer while listening to the frogs croaking softly. Peaceful is was.

Here’s the posture for gardening by hand. The woman is spreading out some plants to dry them. One woman spread out hers to dry on the road going into the village—in the left lane of the two lane road. Our bus had to swerve around her. This shows how small the village is.

Along the river in the town (still no place to get a coffee) of Atsumi Onsen where our hotel is there are hot springs around town for soaking your feet. Here is one by the river along side of the sidewalk outside our hotel. A lot of hikers visit the area and come back to soak their tired feet. It was charming and the hot water really felt good. There were towels in a basket to dry our feet.

We had dinner at a little sushi place then headed black to the hotel and a soak in the public bath in the hotel. We put on our cotton kimonos provided and came back after our bath in them, all warm and comfortable.