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 outing’s discovery is maiwai-zome. Its lineage includes the colorful flags that olden fishing boats flew to announce their return with bounty. It’s a dye process celebratory in feeling, coming from the fishing town of Kamogawa in Chiba prefecture.
“Maiwai represents festivity celebrating a bountiful catch. The custom evolved during the Edo period covering the 17th to 19th centuries in a fishing village on the Bōsō peninsula, now part of Chiba prefecture. Over time, when fishing boat owners wanted to announce a huge haul, they’d distribute special robe-like coats dyed with the maiwai-zome technique to their boatwrights and fishers. This was, incidentally, the same technique used for their flags,” says Mr. Kosuke Suzuki, third-generation artisan at Suzusome studio, one of only two maiwai-zome studios remaining in the Bōsō area.
It’s he who showed me that the application is done one color at a time, just red, then just blue, and so on. The longer robe and short hanten jackets are constructed by sewing together two lengths of completed textile side by side. It’s especially difficult to apply the colors so that the depth of concentration and lines of pattern match with exacting perfection on the left and right sides. Edges of color are dithered, and gradients are created by addition of water or another color before the initial color is fully fixed, contributing to a three-dimensional effect. Therefore, the two artisans are jointly skilled in both dyeing and painting techniques.