The Japan Textile Tour 2017 with Intentionally Different was another amazing adventure in Japan. Once again we travelled city and countryside, through very long mountain tunnels, alongside tremendous rivers and the mountains of changing autumn leaves. The itinerary and organisation of the tour allowed us to see many textile places in more remote areas and in a short time span.
The tour, after the workshop in Saori no Mori, went to Iga. This is a town famous for braiding (and Ninja). Our introduction was by master braider, Hideko Matsuda who is one of 14 takadai braiders in the town. At 70 years of age braiding fills her day and she sits on a high mounted platform on her knees to do the braiding with 60 weighted bobbins. It’s these small things that we can see in Japan that we might overlook. Within these small braids lies a lot of history and continuing craft practice, even when a braid has come from a factory setting. I gave each of the travellers a mardai card to enter this world in a small way, making a round braid while we were travelling. It’s hard to know when a hands-on offer is right. I was delighted that it was generally well received. With a hands on offer while travelling we can’t enter a more sophisticated or highly skilled experience because there are differing interests in the group and time constraints. It takes 12 years to be a designated braider and we just didn’t have the time on tour! Read more
On the Japan textile tour we met many weavers of different cloth. This particular business in Kyoto was well established and were famed for their ‘cloth of light’. This cloth was filled with light which could be clearly seen when a flash light was directed at the cloth. Very beautiful indeed and the photos I have below don’t do them justice at all. Their weavers also wove with metal which was adhered to paper somehow.
Several generations of weavers have established the company products and Koho Tatsumura is well known for his work. His son Amane Tatsumura guided us through the studio and we were able to see many of the manual jacquard looms which are still used. These are used with specific punchcards to lift sheds for the patterning. You can closely see the initial development of computers with the punchcards being a foundation for binary code. I am old enough to remember the computer rooms housing punch cards and their operators, so punchcards are always a thing of great fascination for me, especially in weaving.
In the video you can see the weaver’s skill and watch his very delicate hand actions when preparing the metal threads for the weaving. Our touch and hold of objects in our craft is so mesmerizing to watch. Just slight actions make alot of difference in weaving and all other manual skills.
Meet Taira Toshiko san. A national treasure of Japan in Okinawa. She is responsible for reviving the bashofu processing and weaving in Okinawa after the war. Now 98 years old she continues to manage the processing and weaving workshop which produces bashofu. This is a rare textile indeed. Bashofu fibre is from a plantain banana like tree and produces cloth which is light and almost transparent.
Okinawa comprises 150 islands in the East China Sea. In is a prefecture of Japan and the largest island, Okinawa, is where we will visit on our Japan Textile Tour in September. Also historically known as the Ryukyu Islands it is well known today for the healthy longevity of its citizens. Read more