Japanese Indigo Dye




The many unique scarves made by my classmates using Japanese Indigo Dye!


Wow! It’s already the end of the 2nd week! Time sure does fly by (when you’re having fun of course)! So far, I’m really enjoying my time in Japan! Not only am I learning a whole lot about the language, but I’m also learning a lot about the ancient culture and customs. This week, I got the chance to participate in an old traditional technique from ancient Japan; Japanese Indigo Dye (Aizome). Aizome is the process of fermentation of natural lye. Unlike fabrics that are manufactured with chemical dyes, the authentic dyed fabric does not fade, even after washing! According to our Aizome instructor, the more you wash the fabric, the more the indigo dye will soak deeper into the threads, which make it tougher and long-lasting!

What I found interesting was that all of the colors were derived from nature; blue from indigo of course; yellow is made by boiling grass; brown from the trees; red from red root; and more interesting, brown could be made from cinnamon, which would leave the fabric smelling like fresh cinnamon for life!

For our workshop, we got to dye scarves. The process for dying was quite simple, and very fun! I chose to dye mine’s yellow because it’s my favorite color! Even though the samples were red, blue, yellow, and brown, there were a lot of combinations that you could make because you could mix the colors and even make tie-dye (if you were confident)! To dye,  you first had to wash, then leave in the boiling dye pot for 5 minutes, wash again, dip in “magic water” (really lye) for another 5 minutes, and repeat for deeper and brighter colors. Everyone’s scarves were different and unique!

It was a great experience and one of my favorite excursions! One of the best parts was that we got to make the scarves in Kyoto’s country side; a totally different experience from the city. We were so close to the mountains and the scenery was so natural! I will treasure my scarf as a memento of a great experience!