Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. This time her destination was Arimatsu, Aichi prefecture. She went to a place where the influence of the Edo era lingers, and she encountered beautiful shibori fabric born of expert hands.
Ever since I established my KASHIYUKA shop I keep asking myself the same question: “How come I never knew such handcrafted beauty exists?!” The Arimatsu Shibori method I came across this time has been carried down in Arimatsu, Aichi prefecture for the past 410 years. Tie-dying is a method used throughout the world, but Arimatsu has more varied patterns and techniques than anywhere else. This town, where architecture from the early Edo still stands, is referred to as the “holy ground” of tie-dying.
“Daimyo feudal lords traversing the old Tokaido highway on their supervisory residential rounds throughout the domain would pick up Arimatsu Shibori hand towels and casual kimono as souvenirs, and in doing so, spread their popularity all over the country. Such was its fame that it appears in the popular art form ukiyo-e by classical artists like Hokusai and Hiroshige,” says Mr. Masahiro Takeda of Takeda Kahei Shoten, which first established itself as a business in the early 17th century.
Characteristic of Arimatsu Shibori, pleats and creases are introduced into the textile, which is then bound with string, and then dyed. The pleating and tying techniques are difficult, and encompass more than 60 variations. Therefore, Arimatsu artisans use a one-artisan-one-technique strategy, and each works to perfect that single technique.
Certified traditional artisan Ms. Kiyoko Matsuoka, inheritor of the technique known as Tatsumaki (tornado) Shibori, joined us to demonstrate the skill that only she performs.
The only tool she employs is a 60 year-old v-shaped base for tying. She places the textile over the base and mists it. She then uses thumbs and forefingers to form the pleats, and she ties it with string to fix it in place.
“There’s no sketch or guide. I just visualize an image and fold the pleats with my fingers by intuition,” says Ms. Matsuoka. I hear only the crisp sound of activity as she makes creases by rubbing her thumbs over the densely folded textile. I glance at her thumbs and they appear amazingly smooth!