Posts Tagged ‘silk study tour’

***note***much of this post was written a while back and meant to get it up previously. just now was able to edit it and finish the videos to attach to it. i am still in the process of culling through 1000’s of images gathered from the trip. a needed visit to check in on mom followed close on the heels of my return from Japan and only this weekend am i getting my sea legs back. i apologize if i left you hanging a bit. if you have any issues with this delay you would like to take up with me privately (you won’t be the first- no worries) just let me know via email. thanks….

Every year during the shibori festival two floats are moved out of their storage houses and put on display along the street. They each have puppets moved by men below the decks and tell a story from the past. Every so often throughout the festival the word goes out the puppets will become animated and the crowds gather round. At the end of the festival, the floats are put back until the next festival by a team of men in costume, having drunk much beer and enjoyed much fun. (notice in the video the discussions of how to move the float back into its shelter- I think it came out much easier than it went back in…partially due to a long fun weekend of celebrating!) here’s a video with a street view of the festival and the ritual putting away of the float…

As I walked down the streets of Arimatsu during the festival this year I imagined what it must have been like to be a traveler on this road during the early days of the famed Tokaido road… witness to the artistry and skill of this craft at the height of its existence as well as the efficiency of the Edo period community of that time. Here’s a great book if you’re interested- Just Enough-lessons in living green from traditional Japan, by Azby Brown.

In these modern times much has changed. It’s harder to find older pieces as such production that kept generations of families in business has dwindled and most production has been shipped off to China where labor is cheap and plentiful. I have seen these pieces and while they are well done and affordable, something palpable seems to be missing for me. Intention and invention held hands in the early days of shibori. Now something different is afoot.

The streets during festival still celebrate shibori, its history and stories, the old Tokaido- with food, vendors, demonstrations and entertainment. I was glad to see the celebration and meet the people who still know this craft so intimately (many who are well into their 90’s now), as well as the textile students from nearby Nagoya University. I think everyone who works at making this festival a success (as well as many of the participants) has a sense that things of this nature are slipping away, that if there is a desire to continue, a future must be created. I don’t know the answer, but somehow I felt their desire, their sincere interest, and their enthusiasm to carry this tradition forward. I felt I was scooped up by their passion and carried along the streets, welcomed at every doorway.

I owe Michelle Griffiths for sending me on a small errand for some special thread and this is where I ended up. They had what I had been looking for-the shibori stand. Actually, I was sent to another shop by Hiroshi Murase and his volunteer from the textile department at Nagoya U. That shop sent me on to this location where I had peeked in earlier but not seeing anyone or anything shibori-like I moved on (turns out it was all located behind a second door). I was led there by this fellow who took me under his wing for the rest of the day.

Turns out he owned the shop and was what you might call the master of ceremonies for the festival. He was very kind to me. Later that day he found me again and told me to go sit down. I obeyed. I knew right away that anyone with that fancy kosode tassel needed to be listened to and to my surprise he returned with a beer and some yakiniku! We had a wonderful time meeting people and watching the entertainment.

Speaking of doorways, I took this shot of the next doorway as a reminder of where I found my best Arimatsu treasure- a shibori stand and the needles/hooks to go with.
Just as I was taking the photo to remind me of the shop, a couple of people walked into the picture. Only now when I was looking for it to add to this post did I recognize Yoshiko Wada!

I had hoped to meet her but did not cross her path (that I knew of!). I am thankful for her books on the subject of shibori- most of you are familiar with them if not actually owning one yourself. The DVD she did in conjunction with Hiroshi Murase is a treasure itself, and I’m glad they were able to capture those memories, not only on cloth but on DVD as well. You really get a feeling these days when visiting Arimatsu that much time has passed, continues to pass-and quickly. I think that these days, passing shibori traditions once again call for intention and invention to join hands. There are people who are doing this. I hope that somehow it can be made viable enough to allow those who are focused on it to continue.
I really did enjoy the sculptural shibori glassworks upon entering Arimatsu- a very modern link connecting today with the past. I’ll post some more photos from these two days here in gallery format and you can comment on and ask questions individually if you like-just click on the thumbnail images and a larger image will appear with a comment section. (they will have to go in a separate post as WP will collect all the images from this post and lump them together-either that or i just don’t know how to make it do what i want- a distinct possibility!)

next up…indigo and the Ichiku Kubota Museum.


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oh dear. where to begin? let’s start here:

needless to say, we are living each day more amazed than the next. our group is learning so much- even experts who are among us are seeing things they have only read or written about. part of the fun i am having is watching everyone’s knowledge grow and seeing the information sink in. i can only imagine the places it may lead all of us in the future.

i realize now i perhaps was a bit optimistic about how much time i would have (and underestimated how much it would take) to upload, edit, and write on the go. please forgive any delay and rest assured i will give it the time needed even if it extends beyond the actual physical tour itself. this is, after all, a virtual tour and time is really nonexistent in this realm anyway.

this video is actually from day 2- our visit to the Usui filature mill. this is where silk cocoons are warehoused for reeling into silk fiber. each strand of silk, about the thickness of a human hair, is created from the filaments of 7-9 cocoons. they begin their journey in the sorting room where they are culled and only those that meet specs are sent on ahead. there really is very little waste in this operation. those that don’t meet the specs for reeling are sent along for other end purposes. think willy wonka and the nut sorting room. the rest are off onto the reeling room where they are brushed while floating in hot water to remove the outer waste silk which is twisted into a coarse stiff sericin filled silk fiber called kibisu. from there the cocoons move along to be reeled where one worker can supervise 100 reels with this automatic machinery as opposed to one worker to one reel in earlier days. a 100% increase in productivity. from there the full reels are sent to the drying room where they are automatically rewound into hanks for drying. i will upload video of this step next. not tonight though…it is nearing midnight here and we have a 6:30 am call time. tomorrow we visit the ichiku kubota museum and sato sensei, the indigo dyer.

a few photos…

mata ne
nemutai desu!!

(a couple of notes- sorry for the typos on the video-too tired. also, didn’t mean to add music to the slideshow. too late for me to redo now. just mute it of lower the sound. …..must get some sleep……)

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if you are on the right platform, you can catch the train and end up in Japan, on a magical silk study tour. 9 3/4 sounds about right….


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