Hello again from lockdown. I hope you are all staying safe at home. This is the quickest way for us to get through this pandemic and start a normal life again. In my previous blog I mentioned that I had taken a quick trip to the Tango area before the lockdown in Tokyo began. I haven’t used this blog yet to introduce many of the amazing craftsmen that I have had the privilege to meet in the area. I visited Yosano town and I would like to introduce an amazing artisan there, through this blog.
The official flower of Yosano town is the camellia. I was very fortunate to meet Tokizo Sakitsu and his wife, Asako, craftspeople who live in Yosano. On the day I visited they had a large vat filled with camellia flowers ready to dye. Tokizo filled the pot with water and boiled the flowers, till the water turned a deepish pink colour. After straining out the flowers, he dipped the beautiful silk threads into the water and they turned pink instantly. He also dipped them in a solution with iron mordant, then turning the threads into a purplish grey colour. They dye threads in local plants, and then weave beautiful kimono on handlooms.
That is not all, though. Asako makes the threads for the wefts herself, pulling them from softened cocoons. As Tokizo weaves them into cloth he examines each thread individually in case there are any lumps that could be too large for the fabric. Such attention to detail in work made by hand is rare, but this couple are aficionados.
Recently Tokizo received silk cocoons that were raised in Yosano. This is from a new initiative. This is so exciting for him. He envisions being able to make a kimono that is entirely sourced from Yosano town, not only the dye, not only Asako’s hand-made threads, but the silk itself, coming from Yosano silk worms.
This shows a dedication to the principle that kimono are often rooted in a specific place because of thread-making, or dyes, or techniques that have developed in that place. Tokizo and Asako’s work is slow fashion, rooted in ancient tradition and it has an authenticity that is hard to beat.
After showing me their work, they took me to visit a camellia that has been growing on a hillside for a thousand years. It is large, and covered in deep red blooms. It is amazing how it has grown there for so long, and still survives, even though the trunk has been split in two. I have the sense that time means nothing, when you are searching for true quality.