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.
Uchiwa is one of the things that remind us of the summer. Uchiwa in various colors add some brilliance to the twilight time of the Yukata season. Nara Uchiwa is a traditional handicraft handed down for 1,200 years in Nara Pref. It is designated as a Traditional Handicraft of the prefecture. This round fan is made of Iyo Paper and Tosa Paper dyed in beautiful colors with see-through patterns of items peculiar to Nara or the Pattern of Shosoin (the Imperial Repository), which is then pasted to the bamboo frame. These patterns are carved with “tsukibori (pushed cut)” technique on red, blue, or yellow background, which look very attractive and create the refreshing effect. This traditional handicraft has now been handed down solely at Ikeda Gankodo in Nara City. They have hardly made any changes in the patterns which were first designed in the Nara period (710-794), and have kept employing five background colors of yellow, white, blue, red, and brown. “I’m glad to hear the customers, who visit our shop after an interval of 20 years, happily say, ‘The same thing as I bought 20 years ago!’” says the proprietress with a smile. Ikeda Gankodo has kept the cut paper stencils that were made 120 years ago so that they can make the same products at any time.
Nagoya Black Dyeing is the art used to make formal kimono. The black dyed cloth is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Aichi Pref. The history of this art is dated back to the early Edo period (the 17th century), when Owari clan started to control dyeing industry for making clan banners and labarums. Later the dyeing of a black cloth with family crests for clan members and commoners began at the end of the Edo period (the 19th century). In order to make the outline of reversed-out family crest clear on black dyed cloth, a paper stencil is used. The mon-ate amitsuke technique, which is peculiar to Nagoya, is used. To create rich black color, the cloth is immersed in the dyestuff with low concentration for 30-40 minutes. The main products today are kimono cloth, haori, and mourning kimono. Kimono with a family crest is usually worn on formal occasions. Especially, mourning kimono is still worn by most people as the nation’s traditional clothing.
Yasutaka Komiya was born in 1925. In 1978, he was designated a Living National Treasure for his work in 'Edo-komon' dyeing.
His family was in the dyeing business and had a factory. When he graduated from elementary school, he was apprenticed to his father, Kosuke (also a Living National Treasure), from whom he gained a strong grasp of dyeing techniques.
Through his training, he realized that he should study more about paper patterns and dye in order develop his skills. His efforts paid off and he became accomplished in colored komon dyeing, in which patterns are dotted as finely as fog.
It is said that Komiya is the best Edo-komon artist and everyone who likes tea knows his name. But he is modest, saying, 'it is impossible to make good komon-dyeing by my power alone'. He says that by working together with other fine craftsmen, such as paper-pattern-makers, that he is able to achieve the excellent quality he does.
Edo karakami is a kind of Japanese paper that came to be used for decorating sliding doors, walls and folding screens in Edo buildings. Its origin is 'karakami', an imitation of 'mon-karakami', which was beautifully patterned paper imported from China in the Heian period.
At first, the nobility used this paper as rough paper for waka poetry. After the Middle Ages, it began to be pasted on sliding doors or screens.
In the Edo period, as the Tokugawa government developed the towns around Edo, the demand for karakami increased and it developed in various forms.
Much of Kyoto karakami is printed from woodblocks. On the other hand, Edo Karakami is printed using woodblock as well as many other techniques, such as stencil printing and stripe printing. These patterns have free and subtle designs reflecting the tastes of the Edo-based samurais and townspeople.
Edo sarasa is a tasteful and exotic dyed cotton cloth. The patterns on sarasa are of southern flowers, birds and people depicted in rich colors, and came to Japan from countries such as India, Java and Persia.
Sarasa was introduced to Japan through the southern Nanban trade at the end of the Muromachi period, and had begun to spread by the mid-Edo period.
Edo sarasa has a Japanese sensibility in its colors and designs and uses patterns created through stencil printing. These Japanese patterns are stylized and exotic. Usually, around 30 stencils are used but up to 300 stencils are sometimes used! When many stencil designs are layered together, the sarasa appear profound and almost three-dimensional.
Edo sarasa is a beautiful craft preserved by craftsmen today who have inherited these traditional techniques from the Edo period.