Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori are koinobori or carp-shaped brocade streamers made in Sakai City, Osaka.
Their origin dates back to the beginning of the Meiji period when a merchant who had a toy and stationery business, on his way back from a visit to the Ise Shrine, saw paper carp made in Nagoya. This gave him the idea of having a Japanese kite maker make the paper carp, which he then sold.
By the middle of the Meiji period, the paper carp were replaced by ones made with brocade cloth and the techniques evolved to accommodate the change in material.
Sakai Koinobori are usually done with a drawing of a boy from a folktale, known as Kintaro, riding on the carp. The traditional elaborate methods are still used, in which the pictures are drawn by hand, one stroke at a time. The brocade cloth is then dyed with the utmost care.
With its graduated shading, subtle brush work and forcible strokes all of which are done by hand, Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori is a notable craftwork that is still highly sought after.
Sakai Gogatsu Koinobori, was designated as a prefectural traditional craftwork by Osaka in 1986. The streamers are still now enthusiastically produced so they can grace the skies of Japan with their elegantly swimming carps.
With its picturesque quality and its scientific technique, Yuzen dyeing is an art form unique to Japan.
Takahashitoku, an elite dyeing studio in Kyoto, has for 100 years produced Yuzen dyes for the prominent manufacturer, Chiso.
The Takahashitoku studio is trying to preserve and make relevant this traditional art form for modern uses. They dye dresses and jeans for Yoji Yomamoto, one of world’s top contemporary designers. They also collaborated with a celebrated young artist and created scrolls and screens of his compute graphics paintings. For public, they hold classes for to experience hand painted Yuzen for fun.
“Tradition and techniques need to be accepted by people in order to survive’, says Kinya Takahashi, director of the studio. “But then what makes them acceptable? This question is always on my mind.”
Bingata is an Okinawan traditional paste resist dyeing technique. It was created in the 16th century as a dying process for the clothing of the royalty and the nobles of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Because of this, most of the dye-shops at the time were located around Shuri Castle and protected by the government. Although the word “bin-gata” literally means “red patterns” in Japanese, Bingata is generally multi-colored cloth dyed with various patterned stencil papers.
There are actually two methods of doing Bingata dyeing; “stencil dying” and “cylinder drawing.” In stencil dyeing, the boundaries of the patterns are set with the application of rice-paste resist through a stencil. In cylinder drawing, patterns are hand-drawn through what looks to be a pastry tube.
The bright colors produced by these careful hand processes fascinated the royalty and the nobility of the time. Especially the yellow color created by fukugi (Garcinia subelliptica) was allowed to be used only for the loyal family.
Today, Bingata resist dyed cloth is used not only for clothing but also for many other items such as bags and tapestries, all of which feature an exotic atmosphere of a southern land. Together with Yuzen dyeing, it is one of Japan’s representing dyeing techniques now.
Ise-katagami is a Japanese traditional handicraft handed down for about 1.000 years in Mie Prefecture. Kkatagami is Japanese paper stencil patterns for kimono. Kimono stencil has been called Ise-Katagami because it was made primarily in Ise province (present-day Mie Prefecture) and the stencil paper making was protected by the Kishu domain in the Edo period (1603-1868) as the industry of the domain’s outland territory. They were sold all over Japan by itinerant traders called Ise Merchants.
Ise kimono stencil is made of Japanese washi paper with a persimmon stringent liquid, onto which elaborate and elegant kimono patterns are hand-carved. They are mainly used for dyeing kimono such as Yuzen, yukata and Komon. Today they are also used for drawing patterns on pottery ware, glass ware, and goza-mats as well as for the background mon-gara patterns for newspaper names.
Itoire (literally meaning “thread insertion”) is a technique employed in the making of Ise-katagami (paper stencil patterns), which is a traditional handicraft handed down in Mie Prefecture. Ise kimono stencil is made of Japanese washi paper with a persimmon stringent liquid, onto which elaborate and elegant kimono patterns are hand-carved.
In the case of patterns such as stripes, where there are substantial spaces between the uncut areas of the stencil, threads are fixed to the stencils to strengthen them and prevent movement during use, which technique is called “itoire.”
As itoire is an elaborate technique to require a long period of training and painstaking efforts, successors of this technique are decreasing in number and the technique using silk gauze (called “sha-bari”) are now replacing it. The itoire craftsperson Mie Jonokuchi was designated as a Living National Treasure together with 5 other Ise-katagami craftspeople in 1955; regrettably all have passed away now.
Toshiki Matsui is a craftsman in Kyo Yuzen, a traditional handicraft handed down in Kyoto. His pen name is Shozui. He was born in Kyoto in 1940. He specializes in painting including base drawing, coloring on the part of the cloth which has been outlined with the resist (itome-nori) and musen-Yuzen, in which designs are painted directly onto the fabric with a brush. He was designated as a Traditional Craftsman by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1988.
It is said that the yuzen technique of painting dye directly onto cloth was established by Miyazaki Yuzensai, a popular fan painter living in Kyoto toward the end of the 17th century. Yuzen’s modern designs as well as its vast range of dyeing, pasting, and other techniques such as embroidery and leafing have brought this industry to perfection. Different from Kaga Yuzen, brushes are used in painting in Kyo Yuzen.
Mr. Matsui uses as many as 3,000 brushes, which were all handmade by himself and used for different purposes. He applies the dyes on cloth, using his brushes free-flowingly like his own fingers. His excellent techniques and colorful designs are now used not only for kimono but also for a variety of products such as dresses and framed pictures.
Kaga-yuzen is a style of Yuzen-dyeing that was established after the middle Edo period. It is distinctive because of its use of colors. Kaga-yuzen utilizes the ‘Kaga five colors'： dark red, indigo, yellow ocher, grass green and ancient purple. The realistic design and the sobre colors utilized reflects a samurai aesthetic and is quite popular. ‘Gradation’ and ‘Worm-eaten’ are popular dyeing techniques used in Kaga-Yuzen. In contrast to Kyo-yuzen, Kaga-yuzen gradates from outside to inside rather than inside to outside.
Long ago, there was a technique similar to Yuzen-dyeing used in Kaga where scroll paintings were produced with resist paste and pigment. Kaga Yuzen developed from Kyo-yuzen and Kaga dyeing; Kaga dyeing dates back to pre-Edo times and is characterized by plain dying with indigo, madder, and black.
The final stage in creating Kaga-Yuzen is washing to remove excess dye and resist paste. The flow of Kaga-Yuzen in the Sai and Asano rivers is a feature of winter and it attracts many people.
Fukumi Shimura was born in Omihachirin, Shiga Prefecture, in 1924. In 1990, she was designated as a Living National Treasure for her work in Tsumugi-fabric.
When she was 17, she started learning weaving from her mother. When she was 30, she decided to work independently as a Tsumugi-fabric craftsman and divorced her husband. She learned plant-dyeing on her own and made lively works one after another.
Her work's charm is in its harmony of rich colors, carefully extracted from nature's plants. She integrated traditional patterns, like stripes, with plant-dyed silk and developed Tsumugi-woven kimonos into art. Her efforts and accomplishment have been highly valued.
Shimura has made many works on the theme of historical stories; she chose 'The Tale of Genji' in particular as her lifetime work. Her gracefully woven tsumugi with plant-dyed silk presents heartfelt images from these stories .