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Edo dyeing from which craftsmen created a unique culture

Development of techniques

Dyeing further developed in the Edo era. The center of political economy shifted to Edo, and at the time of peace, both samurai and ordinary people came to enjoy living and culture.
Since the technique of "dye-proof paste" (a method to prevent dyeing with paste) was developed, craftsmen were able to express fine patterns such as fine lines like threads.
As the merchant culture in Edo grew gorgeous, craftsmen in Edo began to challenge various techniques.
Pattern dyeing spread as a technique to engrave a pattern that matches the design to dye, so that dye craftsmen can dye reasonably even designs. Variations expanded by combining many patterns, and many people came to enjoy the clothing culture called kimono.

Blooming of the merchant culture

The Edo Shogunate enacted a law to prohibit luxury to merchants as well. The culture was controlled by limiting the colors to use for clothing.
However, craftsmen in Edo were strong. By fully utilizing brown and grey colors that were not prohibited, they expressed various worlds.
As cotton plantation grew, clothing with indigo dyeing became common since indigo is easy to dye cottons. "Konya-machi (dyers' town)" appeared in various places of Japan, where craftsmen for indigo dyeing and merchants for dyed goods gathered. Konya-machi, in Kanda, Edo was a center of Edo dyeing in those days, and was described in ukiyoe by Hiroshige Ando and Hokusai Katsushika.

Satisfying the people of taste

As merchants enjoy their lives, more people wanted to enjoy the fashion.
To respond to the desire of these people, craftsmen in Edo pursued innovation. "Edo Komon" and "Edo Sarasa" can be called as the "spirit of craftsmen" who polished their techniques.

Ochiai, Shinjuku succeeding the tradition as the growing center of Edo dyeing

Craftsmen's moving

In Meiji and Taisho eras, dye craftsman in Kanda Konya-machi gathered in "Ochiai, Shinjuku" to pursue cleaner water.
The name Ochiai is derived from a "place where the Kanda River and Myosenji River meet." It was a land with abundant water and suitable for dyeing.
In addition to dye craftsmen, craftsmen in related industries such as "Yunoshiya" who stretches lines on a fabric with steam moved in. Ochiai became the growing center of Edo dyeing. At its peak, it prospered with more than 300 dyers.

To the future of dyeing

As clothing for Japanese people shifts to Western style, the number of dye craftsmen in "Ochiai, Shinjuku" as the growing center gradually decreased. There are approximately 10 companies at present. However, they succeeded the techniques and spirits of Edo dyeing, and have been taking on new challenges while protecting the tradition.
Edo dyeing is a world-class technique. Various goods have been developed, including not only kimono, but also small articles and interiors. Edo dyeing is expanding a new world as a material that can be dispatched to the world.

Time of establishment when a number of hardships were overcome

90 years of keeping up Edo dyeing

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In 1914, Shigeo Kobayashi became an apprentice of Kosuke Komiya, the leading teacher of Edo Komon in Tokyo. There, he learned the techniques of Edo Komon, and his eyes to see through genuine things were trained.
Shigeo, during the apprenticeship under Komiya, was well appreciated for his skills and was invited to be a craftsman at "Isegin," the only dyeing wholesaler in Tokyo and a large-scale store with a plant in Takadanobaba. Soon after, he began to take the command as a plant manager. His interests in corporate management also grew.

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On February 11, 1920, Shigeo constructed a plant in Shimo-ochiai in Shinjuku, Tokyo, supported by Mr. Hijikata, his wife's uncle. He gave the name "Futaba-ya" and entrusted Mr. Hijikata with the position of first president. Shigeo himself strived to study buying as well as process techniques, and focused all his energy on product production such as Edo Komon and Edo Sarasa.
Although the business started smoothly, silk prices soon collapsed and the Great Kanto Earthquake struck in 1923. Customers, the dyeing wholesalers in Nihonbashi and Kanda, suffered from devastating damage and the business became difficult; however the business recovered as wholesalers began to resume their businesses and a new plant was constructed in Kami-ochiai at the edge of the Myoshoji River in 1925.

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The business expanded under the support of a good economy, while a dark shadow crept in. The Pacific War began, thus dyers were not able to dye goods and turned into a military industry to produce parts for gas masks. In April 1945, the plant was burnt to the ground due to the Great Tokyo Air Raids. It was in 1951 when it made a fresh start.

Restoration period when the status of Tokyo Some was established

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Bunjiro Kobayashi, the third generation, succeeded the will of Shigeo and enhanced the techniques of Futaba into a fine art. Shigeo hoped that Bunjiro would grow into a person who would carry the broad dye culture in Japan. While Bunjiro expended the business as a manager, he established the status as the most famous dye creator in Japan and also stood out brilliantly as an art director, which contributed to the modernization of the dyeing business rooted in Tokyo.

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Bunjiro blended his unique technique into the traditional dyeing technique. As he aggressively incorporated Asian dyeing technique into Japanese techniques, he described the nature in Japan as well as scenes in the world with his unique sense. Bunjiro's innovative sense to manipulate colors and express peculiar coloration inspired many people.

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He earned a reputation by receiving a number of awards including International Trade and Industry Minister's Award in the 1977 National Dye Competition. In the "Japan Dye Exhibition" held in Tokyo in January 1987, he exhibited an 8-meter wall painting-like work called "Borobudur at Dawn." It was praised by critics and mass communication, gathering attention from various fields. Bunjiro's sense exceeded the category of kimono. His works began to expand into those rooted in people's living and culture, including tapestries, scarves, kimono, belts, partitions, fashion goods, etc.

Bringing Edo dyeing to the world; together with craftsmen in the world

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In 2003, Futaba-en held the "Edo Komon and Sarasa Exhibition" at the Japanese Embassy in London. Coincidentally in the year marking the 400th anniversary of the start of the Edo era, Motofumi Kobayashi, the fourth generation, exhibited "Asakusa Temple: Sanja Matsuri," the powerful work of his father Bunjiro. It was a masterpiece 10-meters high in length, and British people were impressed by the work where the techniques of Edo dyeing were condensed with the Japanese culture as the motif.

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Motofumi has one dream.

"We are craftsmen. I believe that craftsmen are the central players to succeed culture. There are craftsmen in various places of Japan, Asia and in the world where each of their traditions is succeeded. I would like to be united with them to create a network for craftsmen's exchange."

With such hope, Motofumi worked on the "Reformation Project of Edo Dyeing Ateliers." It is a message that "cultures and techniques nourished by traditions will never deteriorate."

2008 is the 88th anniversary for "Some-no-Sato Futaba-en." Through the accumulation of 100 years, how will "Some-no-Sato Futaba-en" develop the possibility of Edo dyeing? We cannot help but place our hopes on them.

 

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