History of Aizome Dyeing
Aizome is a Japanese name for indigo dyeing, which is a kind of plant dyeing and the oldest dyeing technique of Japan. Aizome remains in the treasures of Shosoin (the treasure house of Todaiji temple in Nara prefecture). It has very long history. Already in 1st Century, the Chinese character for "Ai" exists in a book in China.
The oldest Aizome cloth of extant was found in a pyramid of Egypt, and it is said that the cloth was dyed in 4000 - 5000 years ago.
We can learn the Aizome technique has been used since ancient times from this founding.
In Japan, Aizome has more than 1000 years of history, and it is written in "The Tale of Genji." In Heian period, the technique was almost accomplished, and spread through the country in Kamakura period.
Then, the Japanese original Aizome culture came into bloom in Edo period.
In Europe, Ai, the color of Aizome is called "Japan blue." And in United States the color was named "Hiroshige blue" connected with the color of bright sky and ocean of Hiroshige Ando (the ukiyo-e artist, and also referred to as Utagawa Hiroshige). Now it is the representative color of Japan. It can be said that Ai is the color of Japan, has no time barrier.
Green becomes blue immediately- the metamorphosis is the drama of Aizome
Use of chemical dyestuff is the main stream of indigo dyeing in modern times, but originally it was dyed with natural dyestuff made from plants. Hon Aizome uses 100% natural dyestuff. Water pepper, the material of Aizome dyestuff is a plant of the family Polygonaceae. Bright sunshine, blessed rain and refreshing...water pepper that grows up in the nature is the treasure.
Ai shows very mysterious process of dyeing. First, the fermented leaves of water pepper are hardened, then put them into the jar in order to ferment more. When it's fermented, green liquid comes out from the leaves. Threads are soaked into the green liquid, and the green threads dramatically change its color into bright blue just at the moment the threads touch the air. This dramatic moment is called "aerial oxidation" and it is making the attraction of Aizome more mysterious. The numbers of soaking thread into the dye liquor determines the lightness and shade of Aizome. You need to soak thread into the dyestuff for 10 - 15 times to make an indigo blue thread. There are different names for the color such as Aijiro, Kamenozoki, Asagi, Ai and Kon due to the lightness and shade of the color.
The Japanese indigenous indigo color dyed from water pepper is called "Japanese blue." It is famous that natural Aizome can be removed its harshness and becomes more beautiful and tasteful every time you wash.
Clean water and enthusiasm of craftsman makes the color brighter
All the processes of Aizome, such as the subtle coordination of the color by the number of soaking thread into the dyestuff and careful washing by clean water using river or natural clear stream are all handwork and require long time and effort. The fine and great skill of craftsman elevates the value of natural indigo into the color of the greatest treasure.
The color of Aizome is breathing and the breath must touch your heart. Aizome will be loved as the universal color among numberless people for all time.
The traditional Aizome is attracting attention
It has been more than 4000 years since Ai was born in history. From ancient times, people in Japan were familiar with Aizome as the natural dyestuff that deeply relates their everyday life. Let's see how ancient people use Aizome for their life.
Ancient people wore Aizome clothes for farm clothes. The dyestuff covered the surface of the clothes, which helped the clothes to be tough and strong. We can see a lot of statements about Aizome in Japanese history. From ancient times, Aizome was essential for the daily life. By the spread of chemical dyestuff, the natural Aizome was almost in decay, but now it is starting to garner attention. Aizome is the oldest dyeing of Japan, and it still keeps to be used in various ways even now. Please confirm the traditional natural Aizome by sight.