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.
Tapestry is a form of textile art done all over the world since the ancient times. There area a lot of works with high histiric and artistic values. It is said that the oldest tapestry was made by the Coptic in Egypt in about 1580 BC. The techniques of tapestry weaving were brought to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century. The pieces of works brought in these eras are preserved at Horyuji Temple and Shosoin (the Imperial Repository). In the later years, decorative tapestries were woven at many Buddhist temples such as Ninnaji Temple and Honaganji Temple, which was developed into the techniques to make the cloth for obi-belts at Nishijin in Kyoto.
In general, tapestry weaving is weft-faced weaving, in which a pattern drawing is placed under the hidden warp thread and the patterns are woven out by plucking the warp thread with weft thread passed through the shuttle.
In the most elaborate technique of Tsume-Tsuzure (literally meaning “nail weaving”), the cloth is woven by plucking the warp with fingernails, from which it is called “the brocade woven by nails.” It is such sophisticated skills and patience that have created ever fascinating beauty for as long as 3,000 years.
The furoshiki (wrapping cloths) made in the Izumo, Matsue and Yonago areas of Shimane Prefecture are designated as traditional hometown handicraft.
Before the Meiji period, there were aizome indigo dyers across the nation, however, around 1917 (Meiji 40), chemical dyeing had become popular. By 1950, of the 59 tsutsugaki aizome dyers in Izumo, only 4 remained. Today, only one tsutsugaki aizome dyer remains in Nagata, which is recognized by the prefecture as an intangible cultural asset.
Tsutsugaki aizome with a family crest were used as trousseau items up untilthe Taisho period. Furoshiki wrapping cloths were also included in trousseaus.
Making the tsutsugaki aizome requires repetition in dyeing. During the dyeing process, the patterns on the aizome are protected by paste, which is later washed off in the Takase River.
Hiroshi Tajima was born in 1922. In 1999, he was designated as a Living National Treasure in yuzen dyeing.
Just after he graduated from junior-high school, Tajima studied under Shoko Takamura and Ryuji Takamura, then he learned the yuzen technique on his own. When he was 32 years old, he became independent and sent works to many exhibitions, such as the Japan Traditional Handicrafts Exhibition. In a study group, he learned from a Living National Treasure, Nakamura Katsuma, and improved his techniques.
His technique is based on traditional yuzen dyeing and the various techniques he studied. Finally he invented his original 'sekidashi-yuzen'. This features raised patterns of sekidashi-yuzen, which are richly and beautifully colored by techniques such as direct rice-glue painting. The themes of his designs are mainly based on natural things, such as wild birds, cranes, eagles, gulls and wild flowers. His artistic works stir your poetic imagination.
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.
Yoshio Koda was born in 1929. He has been designated as a Living National Treasure for his work in Seigo Sendaihira handwoven silk.
Seigo Sendaihira is a costly thick silk cloth from Sendai. It is made from high-quality raw silk threads that have been kneaded with straw ash, dyed with natural dyes, and which are then woven by hand.
As a boy, Yoshio Koda was apprenticed to his father, Eisuke, (who was designated as a Human National Treasure in 1956), and learned the traditional skill of Seigo Sendaihira.
After his father died in 1965, Yoshio succeeded to the craft. He has been engaged not only in preserving the tradition but in making his original style. Now, he is one of the best weavers in Japan.
Yuko Tamanaha was born in 1936 in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. In 1996, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'bingata' dyeing work.
Bingata is a splendid dyeing craft that symbolises the culture of the Ryukyu dynasty. Its color reflects the colors of Okinawan nature. Professional artists compete with each other to succeed and pursue these traditional skills. And Bingata is a dyeing craft that is unique to Okinawa.
Tamanaha studied dyeing under Eiki Shiroma, the 14th in the Shiroma family and one of the three head families of Bingata. When he was 34, Tamanaha began to send his work to exhibitions and received many prizes for excellence.
His career is brilliant but his work is a steady repetition of tasks. The handiwork requires finesse and endurance and considerable effort leads to beautiful work.
Tamanaha is now engaged in making bingata with his family at his studio: the Tamanaha Bingata Institute in the village of Yomitan.
Omi-jofu is a hemp fabric made in Echigawa, Echi, Shiga Prefecture. The clean waters of the Echigawa River, the high humidity and the success of the Omi merchants led to the development of fabric manufacturing here in the Kamakura period.
In the Edo period, the cloth market grew under the patronage of the Hikone clan. Since then, cloth-dyeing techniques have evolved greatly. Later, a unique and sophisticated designed 'Omi' cloth was woven. The name 'jofu' (direct translation = 'upper cloth') was used because, during the Edo period, the cloth crafted in this fashion was used by the nobility.
The characteristic feature of Omi-jofu is that, after the dyeing of threads, it uses a typical method called 'shibotsuke' to dwindle the threads. Another imporant feature of hemp-cloth is that it absorbs moisture easily and is cooling to the wearer.
To conclude, it could be said that Omi-jofu is a traditional fabric that has evolved over time along with the spirit of the craftsmen.