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Akane and Shikon Plant Dyeing

HOME > Japan’s Local Treasures > Akane and Shikon Plant Dyeing

 

Discover the ancient art of natural plant dyeing in Kazuno

Kazuno Tourism and Local Products

 

 

The dyeing industry in the city of Kazuno, northern Tohoku, has an illustrious heritage spanning more than 1,300 years. Over the centuries, its textiles have been gifted to shoguns and the Imperial Court.

 

Central to Kazuno’s success was the abundance of wild purple gromwell (murasaki) – a perennial plant whose root has a purple pigment – and wild madder (Rubia akane), whose root has a red pigment. People used purple gromwell root dye, known as shikon, and wild madder root to hand-color fine textiles. It is a tradition that continues to this day.

 

Natural shikon and akane dyeing is a labour-intensive process, which has been handed down through generations of dyeing families. It cannot be done by machine and takes three to five – or in some cases eight – years to accomplish. All of that time and effort is revealed in the resulting colors, which are beautiful and long-lasting; remaining graceful for over 50 years.

 

Experiencing these rare fabrics, it is not hard to see why this cloth colored with ancient Kazuno plant dyes, which becomes more vivid over time, is considered 'kami no imasu nuno', literally meaning cloth that Gods or spirits are within.

 

Visit Kazuno in Akita Prefecture to see this ancient plant dyeing technique in action and even create one of these elegant textiles by learning how to dye a silk handkerchief or scarf. The result is a one of a kind artwork to take home that cannot be made anywhere else in the world.

 

How to get there

 

10 minutes walk from JR Kazuno-Hanawa Station or 1 hour by car from Odate-Noshiro Airport.

 

 

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